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Page 1 6, line 33 : delete inverted commas. 

Page 29, line 2 : for . read . . . 

Page 172, line 3 : for badly read baldly. 


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A HISTORY, above all one which only claims to be 
a compilation from published works, needs no intro- 
duction save the compiler's thanks to many authors 
whose books have been consulted. 

One word, however, may J>e said regarding the only 
accent used — the circumflex. 

This is put always on the tone of stress ; that is 
to say, on the syllable to be accented. Thus M&lwa, 
Amb&r, JeysulmSr, Him&lya, Vizigapat&m. Where no 
accent appears the syllables are of equal value. 


Talgarth, Machyulleth. 

M640524: Digitzed by c 


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INDIA TO B.C. 231 . 

. To face page 50 



INDIA TO A.D. I483 . 


INDIA TO A.D. 1556 . 

... „ 170 

INDIA TO A.D. 1707 . 

„ 220 

INDIA TO A.D. I757 . 

„ 290 




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The Ancient Age — When it began — Earliest hymns — The Black 

people — The White people — Was there a third tribe ? I 


The Vedic times — Extent of India — Rig- Veda — Seven rivers — Agri- 
culture — Aryan gods — Aryan features — Hymns to the Dawn . 5 


Days of the Epics — Larger extent of India known — Two great 
epics — The Brahmanas — The Mah£bMrata — Story of Bhishma 
— A golden age — Bhishma's vow and its results — The Princess 
Draupadi— Bhishma's death— The R&mayana . . . . 11 

The marvellous millennium — Its literature — The Opanishads — 
Kapila's philosophy — Vedanta teaching — Religious atmosphere 
— Gautama Buddha — Yoga, and other philosophies — Megas- 
thenes' accounts 21 


The Sesu-niga and other kings — Actual history — Scythians — First 

breath of reality — History of parricides — Nanda dynasty . . 30 

The Anabasis — Alexander's march — Halt on the Indus — The 
Hydaspes — The stealing of a passage — His victory — Appeal to 
his soldiers — Forced to return — His sail down the Hydaspes to 

the sea — His death 35 



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The Great Mauryas — A landmark of history — Chandra-gupta's ability 
— His iron nerve — Seleukos Nikator — His great success and 
vast empire — Bindu-sara — The great Asoka — His reign of 
religion — The Rock and Pillar edicts — An example to all people 
— His vast empire .43 


The outlying provinces — Difficulty of piecing together historical 
facts— Case of coins — The personal equation our only guide — 
The S&cas — The Yuehchi — Manes — Gondophares — St Thomas 
— Horse sacrifice — Vikramaditya — His era — Difficulty of 
recognising him — Soter Megas — Greek influence on India . 50 


The Bactrian Camel and the Indian Bull — Indo-Greek rulers — Age 

ofgold — Transference of power — Mongofianlnvasion^Embassy 

^v ^o Rome — Kanfshka — Buddhist council — Hushka, Jushka, 

>**" , TtanTshka — Secretiveness of India — Song of the Plough . . 57 


The Great Gupta- Empire — Wedding bells — Kumari Devi— 
Chandra-gupta II. — Samudra-gupta — An Indian Alexander — 
An Admirable Crichton — Vikramaditya - gupta — The Golden 
Age of Hindus — Extraordinary artistic activity — A real 
Renaissance T' . 62 


The White Huns and good King Harsha — Attributes of the Huns- 
Worst invasion — Hindu life crystallised into custom — Hypo- 
sestheticised — Good King Harsha — Conversion to Buddhism— 
Hiuen T'sang, the Chinese priest 69 


Chaos — The Dark Ages — No hero to hold the imagination — History 
silent — The Mahomedan invasion imminent — Mahomed's 
character 76 


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Campaigns of the Crescent — Northern battlefield— Constant invasion 

— New blood against old — New creed against old — Mahmud of l - 
Ghuzni — Taking of Nagarkot — Twelve raids — The last to 
Somnath — Mahmud's cruelty — His avarice — A born doubter. 81 


Campaigns of the Crescent again in milder form — Masdd's imitation 
of Mahmud's exploits — The Ghuznevide dynasty — Shahab-ud- 
din and Ghiass-ud-din, the brother kings — The former's change 
of name to Mahomed — His loot and riches .... 89 


The Rajput resistance — Rajputs born soldiers — Prithvi-Raj — Story 
of his marriage with Princess Sunyogata of Kanauj — His victory 
over Mahomed Ghori — The latter's disgust — His final attempt 
atreyenge — Princess SuTiyogatS*s "reply — The fatal field of 
Pamput — Rajputs overthrown — Kutb-din the slave left viceroy 
of India — Mahomed Ghori's death 95 


The slave kings — Delhi founded by a slave — The Kutb Minar — 
Kutb-ud-din Etbuk — Altamish — His bad" sons and good 
daughter — The Empress Razia — Scandal — Her and her 
husband's death — Nasir-ud-din — A good king followed by 
many bad ones — Extinction^ of dynasty 105 


The Tartar dynasties — Slack rule — Tendency to break up into petty 
States — House of Khilji — Allah-ud-din — His murder of his 
uncle, Dervish Sidi — Allah-ud-din and Padmani — Sack of 
Chitore — Difficulties in the Dekkan — Extinction of House of 
Khilji— Toghluk dynasty— Fer6ze Toghluk . • "3 


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Invasion of Timur — The Toork — Timor's terrible cruelty — A crush- 
ing blow — Thirty years of stupefaction ..... 



Devastated India — No master hand in India — Puppet kings — The 
Dekka fairly consolidated — The Rajputs raise their heads — 
Thirty-six years of kinglessness — Three strong men : a warrior, 
a bigot, a tyrant 12^ 


The Great Moghuls— Story of Babar the adventurer — His extra- 
ordinary versatility and charm — His memoirs and literary skill — 
His constant knight errantry and endless fluctuations of fortune 
— His final attraction to India 135 


Babar Emperor of India — His invasion of the Punjab and return to 
gather more troops — His swoop on Delhi — The fatal field of 
Piniput once more — His victories — His dislike to India — His 
overthrow of the Rijputs— His vow of total abstinence and 
victory — His unfailing vitality — Babar as lover and husband — 
Devotion to his wife and children — His son Hum&yon — Strange 
story of a father's devotion — The most romantic figure in Indian 
History 145 

Humayon — His patience and clemency — Addicted to opium — 
Dilatory character — The brothers' bracelet — Ungrateful brothers 
— His flight from Bengal — Increasing misfortunes— Driven to the 
desert— Falls in love — Romantic story — Akbar born in the 
desert — Father and mother forced to fly to Persia . . 155 

The House of Sur — Absolute usurpers — Not royal — Aided, however, 

by Humiyon's brothers— Held India for twelve years . . 161 


The wanderings of a king— Humiyon's record of misfortunes— His 
dilatoriness and absolute good temper — Little Prince Akbar's 


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Contents xiii 


marvellous escapes — Europe's first knowledge of India — The 
Portuguese settlement — Humiyon's final return to India as 
Emperor — His death 164 


Akbar the Great— The times in Europe — His singular, almost incred- 
ible, character — A man of genius — His age at accession — His 
immediate grip on affairs — Byr&m-Khan — Fatal field of P&niput 
once more — Hemu — Akbar's mercy — Dismissal of Byram — 
Record of the reign — English merchants — Birth of an heir — 
Fatehpur Sikri — Akbar's religion — His disappointment in his 
sons — A great dreamer 171 


Jah&ngir and Nurjahin — Story of Mihr-un-nissa — Her meeting with 
JaMngir — His constancy and final marriage — The first charter 
of the English trading company — Sir Thomas Roe's embassy — 
Captain Hawkins — Nurjahan's influence 190 


Shahjahan — Knight of the rueful countenance — An age of gold- 
Grant to England — Greatest magnificence of the Court — Trouble 
with English settlers at Calcutta — Pirates of Arracan — Indian 
revenues — Shahjahan's sons — His devotion to his wife — The Taj 201 


Aurungzebe — End of Middle Age — Unamiable character — Good 
king — Quarrel with Mahrattas under Siva-ji — Likeness between 
Aurungzebe and the Mahratta general — Extreme astuteness of 
latter — Additional grants to England — Help promised by James 
II. to East India Company — Sir John Child as scapegoat — 
India's coral strand — Aurungzebe's untiring energy — His 
deathbed 209 




India in the beginning of the eighteenth century— General volte 
face— Review of the Indian Peninsula— Temptation of Tom 


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xiv Contents 

pag a 

Tiddler's ground — Gold but no riches — Bender's horror at 
commercial status of India — Surprise at high state of intel- 
lectual civilisation — Curious contrasts — Western methods — 
Salaries of officers — Story of the king of Guzerat — Gabriel 
Boughton — William Hamilton 221 


Rise of the Mahratta power — Siva-ji's genius for the sea — Moghuls' 

Star descending— Bahadur Shah's difficulties— Th eSikh s— Death 

^ of the Emperor — Recrudescence of the murdersana horrors of 
P { the past — Accession of FarokKsir — Mahratta war — Growing 

strength of Mahrattas — Final victory — Asaf-Jah returns Delhi- 
wards — Nadir the Persian crosses the Indian Border . . 230 

The invasion of Nadir — Once more the cry of "Toorkh" — Sole object 
/\ ^ gold — The raid seemed born out of due time — Diplomacies of 
Nadir — The fatal field of Paniput once more — This time an* 
almost bloodless route — Delhi sieged, one hundred and fifty 
thousand killed — Thirty millions worth of solid plunder 
carried off— Decrease in dividends of Company — Opposition 
to its monopoly in trade once more raised — Renewal of 
monopoly . . 240 

The game of French and English — French East India Companies — 
Joseph Dupleix — His diplomacies — Admiral Labourdonnais — 
Jealousies between the two — British squadron — Game of hide 
and seek — Pondicherry given to French by Nawab of Arcot— 
Siege of Madras — Plight of England — Saved by a storm — 
Labourdonnais impeached by France — Nawab of Arcot sides 
with England — Coast of Coromandel saved by another storm — 
Siege of Pondicherry — Disastrous failure — Dupleix sings "Te 
Deums " — Peace of Aux la Chapelle 247 


Plots and counterplots — Peace brings thought — French and English 
turn to commerce — Only ascending power in India the 
Mahrattas — Western soldiers used as mercenaries — 
Immediate difficulties -^ Successional wars, French on one 
side, English the other— Putting up of puppets — England 
gets the worst of it — Robert Clive as champion ^ . . .255 


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Robert Clive as writer, as soldier, as writer once more — Tales 
of his youth — He takes Arcot — Wonderful vitality — Great 
influence with natives — They refuse to start on campaign 
unless led by him — Constant increase of his army by desertions » 
from the enemy — Game of French and English again — Council ' 
of Negotiation a farce — Attention of both France and England 
drawn to constant hostilities in the East — Dupleix recalled 
— Dies miserably in poverty — Clive commanding at Madras — 
News of Black Hole outrage — Sails to avenge it — Cause of the 
outrage — Clive avenges it — Great friction at Calcutta — Battle 
of Plassey — Omichand incident — England has real hold on 
India 263 

Robert Clive as Governor of Bengal — State of Upper India — Ahmed- 
Sh&Vs invasion and revenge — Comte de Lally — Bussy and 
Bobbili — Sir Eyre Coote — Gradual defeat of French interests — 
Quarrels over batta money — Mir-J&ffar as Naw&b of Bengal 
gives trouble — Gives j&ghir to Clive — Clive goes home — 
Trouble at Murshidabad — Ahmed-Sh£h, Durrini, invades Upper 
India — Historic battlefield once more — Question of private 
trade — Warren Hastings opposes it — Clive returns to India — 
Raises status of Civil Service — Puts down corruption — Health 
foils — Goes to England — Disgrace — Disillusionment — Dies by 
his own hand after a grudging acquittal 277 

Hyder-Ali et Alia — Treaty of Paris harmful — Hyder- Ali's lawless- 
ness^ — Colonel Smith holds his own — Treaties — Money - bags — 
Plunder — Price of India stock goes down — Financial pressure . 290 

Warren Hastings — Early career — Supporter of Clive — Makes many 
enemies — Treaty of Naw&b of Oude and Mahrattas — English 
mercenaries — Hastings appointed first Governor-General — Re- 
construction of appointments under new Act — Mr Francis — 
Persistent enmity — Dissensions in the Council — Incident of 
Nuncom&r — Hastings in minority — In majority — Financial 
reforms — Francis refuses assent or criticism — Suggests the 
Great Mistake — Hastings relieved of office — Refuses to accept 
dismissal — Two Councils, two Governor-Generals — Supreme 
Court decides for Hastings — Incomprehensible conspiracies in 
Mahratta Court — Hyder Ali again gives trouble — Dies — His 
son, Tippoo Sahib — Case of the Rajah of Benares — Of the 
Begums of Oude — Harsh terms imposed on Naw&b of Oude . 294 

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xvi Contents 

chapter x 


Administrations and impeachments — Review of Clive's and Warren 
Hastings' careers — Attempt to unravel the clues — Influx to India 
of foreigners — Walter Reinhardt — Begum Sumroo — George 
Thomas — General view of India 307 


The Board of Control appointed by the Crown — Responsibilities — 
Lord Cornwallis— J&wan Bakht — Civil and military reforms — 
Tippoo Sahib again — Four years' wear — Permanent settlement 
evolved at Wimbledon — Immediate effects — France and 
England at war — Renewed trouble in Oude — Death of Tippoo 
Sahib — English action in Oude — Threatening outlook — 
Mahratta jealousy — Assaye — Marquis of Wellesley — First inter- 
view of conquering England with Great Moghul — Mutiny at 
Vellore— Lord Minto— Debt of India 313 


The e^xtinctipja of JXLQQgooly — Church establishment formed — Parlia- 
ment — History of cotton trade — Earl Moira — War yi Nepaul — 
Rajputana smouldering — Kishen Kumari — Lord Hastings — 
Final MahraTfa war — More troublem Oude — Lord Amherst — 
Burmese **War — Lord William Bentinck — Policy of non- 
interference — Disastrous result — Trouble in Oude — D iploma cy 
with Shali-Sujah— The short sea passage . *~; . 326 j 


F reedom and frontiers — Tea — India thrown open to the world — 

" struggle over Governor - Generalship — Lord Auckland — ; 

Macaulay's Penal Code — Fresh trouble in Oude — Embassy to 
Dost Mahomed — Sir Alexander Burnes — Disaster at Kabul — 
Lord*^Ellenborough — Sir itenry Hardinge — Annexation of 
Punjib * . \ . 336 jj 


Manners, morals, and missionaries — Second Burmese war — Anjftesa- i 

tion of Oude — Unrest — Causes of it — Evangelical wave — Sue- 1 

-Annexations — General review of Oude — Question . 345 

The Great Mutiny— Sir Charles Metcalfe's prediction—Signs of the 
times— Barrackpore — Meerut— Delhi — Fateful delay— Luck- 
now — Cawnpore —John Nicholson— End of defence— Success 
of attack— Retribution— Final question 352 


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As the mind's eye travels backwards across the wide plains of 
Northern India, attempting to re-people it with the men of olden 
time, historical insight fails us at about the seventh century B.C. 
From that date to our own time the written Word steps in to pin 
protean legend down to inalterable form. 

And yet before this seventh century there is no lack of evidence. 
The Word is still there, though, at the time, it lived only in the 
mouths of the people or of the priesthood. Even if we go so far 
back as B.c. 2000, the voices of men who have lived and died are 
still to be heard in the earlier hymns of the Rig- Veda. 

And before that ? 

Who knows? The imaginative eye, looking out over the vast 
sea of young green wheat which in many parts of the Punjab 
floods unbroken to the very foot of the hills, may gain from it an 
idea of the wide ocean whose tide undoubtedly once broke on the 
shores of the Himalayas. 

The same eye may follow in fancy the gradual subsidence of 
that sea, the gradual deposit of sand and loam brought by the 
great rivers from the high lands of Central Asia. It may rebuild 
the primeval huts of the first inhabitants of the new continent — 
those first invaders of the swampy haunts of crocodile and strange 
lizard-like beasts — but it has positively no data on which to work. 
The first record of a human word is to be found in the earliest 
hymn of the Aryan settlers when they streamed down into the 
Punjab. When ? 




2 The Ancient Age 

Even that is beyond proof. The consensus of opinion 
amongst learned men, however, gives the Vedic period — that is 
to say, the period during which the hymns of the Rig- Veda were 
composed — as approximately the years between B.c. 2000 and 
B.C. 1400. 

But these same hymns tell us incidentally of a time before that. 
It is not only that these Aryan invaders were themselves in a state 
of civilisation which necessarily implies long centuries of culture, 
of separation from barbarian man ; but besides this, they found 
a people in India civilised enough to have towns and disciplined 
troops, to have weapons and banners ; women whose ornaments 
were of gold, poisoned arrows whose heads were of some metal 
that was probably iron. 

All this, and much more, is to be gathered in the Rig- Veda con- 
cerning the Disyas or aboriginal inhabitants of India. Naturally 
enough, as inevitable foes, they are everywhere mentioned with 
abhorrence, and we are left with the impression of a " tawny race 
who utter fearful yells." 

Who, then, were these people ? 

Are we to treat the monotonous singing voice which even now 
echoes out over the length and breadth of India, as in the sun- 
setting some Brahman recites the ancient hymns— are we to treat 
this as the first trace of Ancient India? Or, as we sit listening, 
are we to watch the distant horizon, so purple against the gold of 
the sky, and wonder if it is only our own unseeing eyes which 
prevent our tracing the low curve that may mark the site of a 
town ancient when the Aryans swept it into nothingness ? 

"The fiction which resembles truth," said the Persian poet 
Nizimi in the year 1250, "is better than the truth which is dis- 
severed from the imagination " ; so let us bring something of the 
latter quality into our answer. 

Certain it is that for long centuries the reddish or tawny 
D&syas managed to resist the white-skinned Aryas, so that even 
as late as the period of that great epic, the Mahibh&rata — that is, 
some thousand years later than the earliest voice which speaks 
in the Vedic hymns — the struggle was still going on. At least 
in those days the Aryan Pand&vas of whom we read in that poem 
appear to have dispossessed an aboriginal dynasty from the throne 
of Mag&dha. This dynasty belonged to the mysterious N&ga or 
Serpent race, which finally blocks the way in so many avenues 
of Indian research. They are not merely legendary ; they cross 


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Ancient India 3 

the path of reality now and again, as when Alexander's invasion 
of India found some satrapies still held by Serpent-kings. 

It is impossible, therefore, to avoid wondering whether the Aryans 
really found the rich plains of India a howling wilderness peopled 
by savages close in culture to the brutes, or whether, in parts of 
the vast continent at least, they found themselves pitted against 
another invading race, a Scythic race hailing from the north- 
east as the Aryan hails from north-west? 

There is evidence even in the voice of the Rig- Veda for this. 
To begin with, there is the evidence of colour — colour which was 
hereafter to take form as caste. We have mention not of two, 
but of three divergent complexions. First, the "white-complexioned 
friends of Indra," who are palpably the Aryans ; next, " the enemy 
who is flayed of his black skin " ; and lastly, " those reddish in 
appearance, who utter fearful yells." 

It seems, to say the least of it, unlikely that a single aboriginal 
race should be described in two such curiously different ways. 

As for the fearful yells, that is palpably but another way of 
asserting that the utterers spoke a language which was not 
understood of the invaders. "Du ye think th' Almighty would 
be understands siccan gibberish," said the old Scotch lady when, 
during the Napoleonic war, she was reminded that maybe many 
a French mother was praying as fervently for victory as she was 
herself. The same spirit breathes in many a Vedic hymn in which 
the Dasyas are spoken of as barely human. " They are not men." 
"They do not perform sacrifices." "They do not believe in any- 
thing." These are the plaints which precede the ever-recurring 
prayer — " Oh ! Destroyer of foes ! Kill them ! " And worse even 
than this comes the great cause of conflict — "Their rites are 

So the story is told. These Dasyas, " born to be cut in twain," 
have yet the audacity to have different dogma, conflicting canons 
of the law. Even in those early days religion was the great unfail- 
ing cause of strife. 

These same hymns of the Rig- Veda, however, give us but scant 
information of the foes who are called generally Dasyas, or 
" robbers." But here again divergence creeps in. It is impossible 
to class " the wealthy barbarian," the " neglecters of sacrifices," 
who, " decorated with gold and jewels," were " spreading over the 
circuit of the earth," whose "iron cities" were to be destroyed, 
who were to be "slain whether weeping or laughing, whether hand 


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4 The Ancient Age 

to hand or on horseback, whether arrayed in hosts or aided by 
missile -hurling heroes" — it is impossible, surely, to class these 
enemies with the mere robber brutes of whom it is written that 
they " were slain, and the kine made manifest." 

Were then these tawny-hued foes, with the mention of whom 
wealth is invariably associated, in reality the ancestors of the 
treasure-holding Takshaks or Nagas, that strange Snake race of 
which we read in the Mahabharata, and of which we hear again 
during the invasion of Alexander ? 

At least there is nothing to prevent us dreaming that this is 
so ; and while we listen to the voice of some Brahman chanting 
at sunset-time the oldest hymns in the world, there is nothing to 
hinder us from trying to imagine how strangely these must have 
fallen on the ears of the " neglecters of sacrifices, the dwellers in 
cities, rich in gold and beautiful women," of whom we catch a 
passing glimpse as the stately Sanskrit rhythm rolls on. 

The sun sets, the voice ceases, and the far-away past is no 
nearer and no further from us than the present. 


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B.C. 2000 TO B.C." I4OO 

Before entering on its history it is necessary to grasp the size 
of the great continent with which we have to deal. Roughly 
speaking, India has fourteen and a half times the area of the 
British Isles. Of most of this country we have next to no history 
at all, and in the time which is now under consideration we have 
to deal only with the Punjab, the " Land of the Five Rivers," the 
area of which about equals that of Great Britain. That such lack 
. of information should exist is not wonderful, since, for all we know, 
this upper portion of India may then have been on the shores of a 
still-receding sea ; indeed, colour is given to this suggestion by the 
remembrance that the five rivers of the Punjib plain to this day 
act as huge drain-pipes which deprive the intervening country of 
surface moisture. Naturally, this fact, in the days when all India, 
save for its few isolated ranges of Central mountains, must have 
been one vast swamp, was an immense boon to humanity. 

The geographical area, therefore, with which we have to treat 
in the Vedic period is very limited. It is a mere patch on the 
present continent of India, bounded on the north by the snowy 
Himalayas, on the south by the Indus (and probably by the sea), 
on the west by the Suleimam Mountains, while on the east lay the 
unknown, and possibly marsh land of the Ganges and Jumna 

Curiously enough, although we speak of this very tract nowa- 
days as the " Land of the Five Rivers," in Vedic times the rivers 
were counted as seven. That is to say, the Indus was called the 
mother of the six — not five — streams which, as now, joined its vast 
volume. In those days this juncture was most probably in com- 
paratively close proximity to the sea. Of these six rivers only five 
remain : the Jhelum, the Chenab, the Ravi, the Beas, the Sutlej. 
The bed of the sixth river, the " most sacred, the most impetuous 


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The Ancient Age 

of streams," which was worshipped as a direct manifestation of 
Sar&swati, the Goddess of .Learning, 1 is still to be traced near 
Thanfiswar, where a pool of water remains to show where the dis- 
pleased Goddess plunged into the earth and dispersed herself 
amongst the desert sands. 

The stream never reappears ; but its probable course is yet to 
be traced by the colonies of Sar&swata Brahmans, who still preserve, 
more rigidly than other Brahmans, the archaic rituals of the Vedas. 
The reason for this purity of rite being, it is affirmed, the grace- 
giving quality of Mother Saraswati's water which, with curious 
quaint cries, is drawn in every village from the extraordinarily 
deep wells (many of which plunge over 400 feet into the desert 
sand), at whose bottom the lost river still flows. 

Into this Land of the Seven Rivers, then, came—somewhere 
about two thousand years before Christ — wanderers who describe 
themselves as of a white complexion. That they had straight, 
well-bridged noses is also certain. To this day, as Mr Risley the 
great ethnologist puts it, " a man's social status in India varies in 
inverse ratio to the width of his nose " ; that is to say, the nasal 
index, as it is called, is a safe guide to the amount of Aryan, as 
distinguished from aboriginal blood in his veins. One constant 
epithet given to the great cloud-god Indra — to whom, with the 
great fire-god Agni, the vast majority of the hymns in the Rig- 
Veda are addressed — is " handsome-chinned." But the Sanskrit 
word sipra, thus translated " chin," also means "nose" ; and there 
can be no doubt that as the " handsome-nosed " one, Indra would 
be a more appropriate god for a people in whom that feature was 
sufficiently marked to have impressed itself, as it has done, on 
countless generations. 

Whence the Aryans came is a matter still under dispute. That 
they were a comparatively civilised people is certain. The hymns 
of the Rig- Veda, which were undoubtedly composed during the 
six hundred years following on the Aryans' first appearance in 
the Punj&b, proves this, as they prove many another point con- 
cerning these, the first white invaders of India. How the idea 
ever passed current that they were a pastoral people is a mystery, 
since from the very first we read in these hymns of oxen, of the 
cultivation of corn, of ploughing, and sowing, and reaping. 

"Oh! Lord of the Field!" reads one invocation. "We will 

1 Comparable in modern mythology to Minerva, 

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The Vedic Times 7 

cultivate this field with thee ! May the plants be sweet to us ; 
may the rains be full of sweetness ; may the Lord of the Field be 
gracious to us ! Let the oxen work merrily ; let the man work 
merrily ; let the plough move merrily ! Fasten the traces merrily ; 
plyfthe goad merrily. ... Oh ! Fortunate Furrow! speed on thy 
way, bestow on us an abundant crop — sow the seed on this field 
which has been prepared. Let the corn grow with our hymns, 
let the scythes fall on the ripe grain. Prepare troughs for the 
drinking of animals. Fasten the leathern string, and take out 
water from this deep and goodly well which never dries up. 
Refresh the horses, take up the corn stacked in the field, and 
make a cart to convey it easily." 

Practically Indian agriculture has gone no further than this in 
close on four thousand years. 

It is true that a hymn to the God of Shepherds finds occasional 
place in the Rig- Veda, but in these there is an archaic ring, which 
seems to point to the Aryan wanderings before India was reached. 
One of them begins thus : " Oh ! Pushan, the Path-finder, help 
us to finish our journey ! " 

From purely religious hymns, naturally, one has no right to 
expect a full crop of information concerning the political and 
social life of the times in which they were composed, yet the light 
which the Rig -Veda throws upon these dark ages is luckily 
surprising ; luckily, because we have absolutely no other source 
of knowledge. 

From it we learn something of commerce, even to the extent 
of the laws regulating sale and usury. We learn also of ships 
and shipwrecks, [of men who, " taking a boat, took her out to 
sea, and lived in the boat floating on the water, being happy in 
it rocking gracefully on the waves " ; from which we may infer 
that our early Aryan brothers did not suffer from sea-sickness. 
There is also a phrase in fairly constant use, " the sea-born sun," 
which would lead us to suppose that these writers of hymns had 
often seen sunrise over an Eastern ocean. 

Many kinds of grain were cultivated, but the chief ones seem to 
have been wheat and barley. Rice is not mentioned. Animals 
of all sorts were sacrificed, and their flesh eaten ; and as we read of 
slaughter-houses set apart for the killing of cows, we may infer 
that the Aryan ancestors of India were not strict vegetarians. 

But all mention of food, even sacrificial food, in the Rig- Veda 
fades into insignificance before its perfectly damnable iteration 
concerning a fermented drink called "Soma." Scarcely a hymn 


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8 The Ancient Age 

finds finish without some mention of it, and pages on pages are 
full of panegyrics of the " exhilarating juice," the " adorable liba- 
tion," "the bright effused dew of the Soma, fit drink for gods." 
And apparently for men also, since we read that the "purifying" 
Soma, like the sea rolling its waves, has poured out on men, 
songs and hymns and thoughts." An apotheosis of intoxication, 
indeed ! 

It appears to have been the fermented juice of some asclepiad 
plant which was mixed with milk. The plant had to be gathered 
on moonshiny nights, and many ceremonials accompanied its 
tituration, and the expressing of its sap. 

In later years, of course, the Soma ritual expanded into some- 
thing very elaborate, and no less than sixteen priests were required 
for its proper fulfilment ; but in the beginning, it is evident that 
each householder prepared the drink, and offered some of it, and 
of his food also, to Indra the cloud-god first, then to Agni the fire- 
god, and so by degrees (increasing with the years) to a host of 
smaller gods — the Winds, the Dawn, Day, Night, the Sun, the 

For these ancient Aryans had not far to look for godhead. 
They found it simply, naturally, in themselves, and in all things 
about them, as the secret verse which to this day is held in sacred 
keeping by the twice -born amply shows. For there can be 
small doubt that the closest rendering to the original meaning 
runs thus : — 

" Let us meditate on the Over-soul which is in all souls, which 
animates all, which illumines all understandings." 

Mankind makes but small advance with the years in metaphysics, 
and it needed a Schopenhauer to reinvent the Over-soul — after 
how many generations? Who can say? 

Only this we know, that a few centuries after Christ, a Chinese 
pilgrim to India committed himself to the assertion that " Soma 
is a very nasty drink." 

There is no trace in these Vedic hymns of the many deplorable 
beliefs, traditions and customs, which in later years have debased 
the religious and social life of India. 

The Aryans worshipped "bright gods," and seem to have 
been themselves a bright and happy people. We hear nothing 
of temples or idols, of caste or enforced widowhood. Indeed, 
the fact that the language contains distinct, concrete, and not 


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The Vedic Times 9 

opprobrious terms for "the son of a woman who has taken a 
second husband/' and for "a man who has married a widow/ 1 
proves that such words were needed in the common tongues of 
the people. Neither is there any trace of, nor the faintest shred 
of authority for, either suttee or child-marriage. 

So the ancient Aryan rises to the mind's eye as a big, stalwart, 
high - nosed, fair - skinned man, with a smile and a liking for 
exhilarating liquor, who, after long wanderings with his herds 
over the plains of Central Asia — where, reading the stars at night, 
he sang as he watched his flocks to Pushan the Path-finder — looked 
down one day from the heights of the Himalayas over a fair 
expanse of new-born land by the ripples of a receding sea, and 
found that it was good. 

So for many a long year he lived, fighting, ploughing, and pray- 
ing — with copious libations — to Indra, the God of Battles, and to 
Agni, the humble, homely God of Fire, who yet was the invoker 
of all Gods mysteriously connected with the Sun, the Moon, the 
Stars, the very Lightning. 

And one of the prayers to the god who "comprehended all 
things," who " traversed the vast ethereal space, measuring days 
and nights and contemplating all that have birth," ran thus :— 

" Take me to the immortal and imperishable abode where light 
dwells eternal. ,, 

We have not gone much further. The cry which rises in the Rig- 
Veda is the cry of to-day : — 

"From earth is the breath and the blood; but whence is the 
soul ? What or Who is that One who is ever alone ; who forms 
the six spheres ; who holds the unborn in His Hand ?" 

Yet the religious feeling of these primitive Aryans was not all 
tinged by doubt, by sadness ; some of their hymns to the Dawn 
breathe the spirit of deep joy which is in those who recognise, 
however dimly, that the One of whom they question is no other 
than the Questioner. 

So let us conclude this chapter with a few verses collated from 
these hymns. 

11 Many-tinted Dawn I Th' immortal daughter of Heaven ! 
Young, white robed, come with thy purple steeds ; 
Follow the path of the dawnings the world has been given, 
Follow the path of the dawn that the world still needs. 


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16 The Ancient Age 

" Darkly shining Dusk, thy sister, has sought her abiding, 
Fear not to trouble her dreams ; daughters, ye twain of the Sun, 
Dusk and dawn bringing birth I O Sisters ! your path is unending ; 
Dead are the first who have watched ; when shall our waking be done? 

" Bright, luminous Dawn ; rose-red, radiant, rejoicing ! 
Shew the traveller his road ; the cattle their pastures new ; 
Rouse the beasts of the Earth to their truthful myriad voicing, 
Leader of lightful days ! softening the soil with dew. 

" Wide-expanded Dawn I Open the gates of the morning ; 
Waken the singing birds ! Guide thou the truthful light 
To uttermost shade of the shadow, for — see you ! the dawning 
Is born, white-shining, out of the gloom of the night." 

Surely there is something in these phrases, taken truthfully from 
the original and strung together consecutively so as to give the 
spirit which animates the whole, that makes us of these later times 
feel closely akin to those who sang thus in the Dawn of Days. 


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The area of India which has now to be considered is much larger. 
Oudh, Northern Behar, and the country about Benares are com- 
prised in it ; but Southern India remains as ever, unknown, even 
if existent. 

The sourcesof information concerning this period of six hundred 
years are also much larger, though in a measure less trustworthy ; 
for the two great epics of India, the Mahabharata and the 
Rlmayana, are avowedly imaginative, and not — as are the hymns 
of the Rig- Veda — the outcome of the daily life of a people, which, 
like the accretions of a coral reef, remain^ to show what manner of 
creature once lived in them. 

Even the remaining Vedas, the Yajur, the Sama and the Atharva, 
partake of the same purely literary spirit, although the first and 
second of these were probably in existence towards the end of the 
Vedic period. The last named is — at least in its recognition as 
a Sacred Text — of far later date. All three consist largely of 
transcripts from the Rig- Veda, and around each of them, as indeed 
around the Rig- Veda- Sanhita itself, there grew up a subsidiary 
literature called Brahmanas, the object of which was to explain, 
consolidate, and elaborate both the ritual and teaching of the 
Vedic age, as it became archaic under the pressure of a greater 
complexity in life. 

It is to the epics and to the Brahmanas, then, that we must look 
for what sparse information is to be gleaned concerning India 
during this six hundred years or so. It should be remembered 
that even these books were to remain truly the "spoken word" 
for at least two centuries longer, until the art of writing became 
known about B.C. 800. As against this, however, we may set the 
undoubted fact that such was the marvellous memory of those 
early days, that by the close of the Epic period every syllable of 


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12 The Ancient Age 

the Rig- Veda had been counted with accuracy, and the whole 
carefully compiled, arranged, analysed as it now stands. 

To tell the honest truth, the Brahmanas are but a barren field. 
Full of elaborate hair-splitting, cumbered with elaborate regula- 
tions for the performance of every rite, prolix, prosy, they reflect 
only a religion which was fast breaking down into canonical 
pomposity.* It is true that towards the end of the Epic period 
matters improved a little, and in the teachings of the Opanishads 
— last of the so-called " revealed Scriptures " of India — we find a 
very different note ; but as these seem to belong, by right of 
birth, more to the Philosophical period which follows on the Epic, 
we will reserve them for subsequent consideration. 

It is, then, to the Mahabharata and to the Ramayana that we 
must look. 

Not, however, for history as history; for the personages, the 
incidents in these two great poems are purely mythical. 

But that a strong tribe called Bharatas or Kurus who had settled 
near Delhi did for long years struggle with another strong tribe 
called the Panchalas, who had settled near Kanauj, is more than 
likely. With this background, then, of truth, the story of the 
Mahabharata is a fine romance, and throws incidentally many 
a side-light on Hindu society in these remote ages. But it is 
prodigiously long. In the only full English translation which 
exists it runs to over 7,500 pages of small type. Anything more 
discursive cannot be imagined. The introduction of a single 
proper name is sufficient to start an entirely new story con- 
cerning every one who was ever connected with it in the most 
remote degree. But it is a treasure house of folk-lore and folk 
tales, interspersed, quaintly, by keen intellectual reasonings on 
philosophical subjects, and still more remarkable efforts to pierce 
the great Riddle of the World by mystical speculations. It is, 
emphatically, in every line of it, fresh to the uttermost. It is the 
outcome of minds — for it is evidently an accretion of many men's 
imaginations — that still felt the first stimulus of wonder concerning 
all things, to whom nothing was common, nothing impossible. 

A redaction even in brief of the Great Epic is beyond the power 
of any writer. To begin with, many of the side-issues are to the full 
as worthy transcription as those of the main thread of the story ; 
and then it is almost impossible to make out what the latter really 
was in the beginning, before the endless additions and interpola- 
tions came to obscure the original idea. 


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The Days of the Epics 13 

To most critics this main thread presents itself as a prolonged 
war between the Kaur&vas and their first cousins the Pandavas — 
in other words, between the hundred sons of Dhritarashta, the blind 
king, and the five sons of his brother Panda — but to the writer the 
leit motif 'is the story of Bhishma. It is a curious one ; in many . 
ways well worthy of a wider knowledge than it has at present in 
the West. 

Bhishma, then, was the heir of Shantanu, the King of Hastinapur. 
His birth belongs to fairy tale, for he was the son of Ganga, the 
river goddess, who consented to be the wife of the love-struck 
Shantanu on condition that, no matter what he might see, or she 
might do, no question should be asked, no remark made. There 
is therefore a distinct flavour of the world-wide Undine myth in the 
tale. In this case the lover-husband is of the most forbearing type. 
It is not until he sees his eighth infant son being relentlessly con- 
signed to the river that he cries : " Hold ! Enough ! Who art thou, 
witch ?" In consequence of this, in truth, somewhat belated curi- 
osity, the goddess leaves him, after assuring him that her purpose 
is accomplished. Seven Holy Ones condemned to fresh life by a 
venial fault have been released by early death, and this last child 
is his to keep as being, indeed, the pledge of mutual love. 

So far good. Bhishma is brought up as the heir until he is 
adolescent. Then his father falls in love with a fisherman's 
daughter who is obdurate. She refuses to marry, except on the 
condition that her son, if one is born, shall inherit the kingdom. 
Even a promise that this shall be so is not sufficient for her. She 
claims that Bhishma must not only swear to resign his own claim 
to the throne in favour of her son, but must also take a solemn 
vow of perpetual celibacy, so closing the door against future claims 
on the part of his children. Devoted to his father, the boy, just 
entering on manhood, accedes to the proposal ; his father marries, 
and dies, leaving a young heir to whom Bhishma becomes regent. 
An excellent one, too, as the following extract concerning his 
regency will show : — 

"In these days the Earth gave abundant harvest and the crops 
were of good flavour. The clouds poured rain in season and the 
trees were full of fruit and flowers. The draught cattle were all 
happy, and the birds and other animals rejoiced exceedingly, while 
the flowers were fragrant. The cities and towns were full of 
merchants and traders and artists c f all descriptions. And the 
people were brave, learned, honest and happy. And there were 


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14 The Ancient Age 

no robbers, nor any one who was sinful ; but devoted to virtuous 
acts, sacrifices, truth, and regarding each other with love and 
affection, the people grew up in prosperity, rejoicing cheerfully 
in sports that were perfectly innocent on rivers, lakes and tanks, in 
fine groves and charming woods. 

" And the capital of the Kurus (Hastinapur), full as the ocean 
and teeming with hundreds of palaces and mansions, and possess-, 
ing gates and arches dark as the clouds, looked like a second 
Amaravati (celestial town). And over all the delightful country 
whose prosperity was thus increased were no misers, nor any 
woman a widow, but the wells and lakes were ever full, full were 
the groves of trees, the houses with wealth, and the whole 
kingdom with festivities. 

" So, the wheel of virtue being thus set in motion by Bhishma, 
the subjects of other kingdoms, leaving their homes, came to dwell 
in the golden age." 

A golden age indeed! A millenium dating a thousand years 
before the Christ. And for this, Bhishma the Brother Regent and 
Satyavati the Queen-Mother were responsible. The Boy-King 
appears to have been but a poor creature. Even Bhishma's 
famous exploit of carrying off the three beautiful daughters of 
the King of Benares — Amva, Amvfka and Amvalika — as brides for 
the lad, does not seem to have kept him from evil courses. True, 
the elder of these three " slender- waisted maidens, of tapering hips 
and curling hair," cried off the match by bashfully telling the soft- 
hearted Bhishma that she had set her affections on some one else ; 
whereupon he, holding that "a woman, whatever her offence, 
always deserveth pardon," bid her follow her own inclinations. 
Still the two remaining brides did not avail to prevent the young 
bridegroom from succumbing to disease, leaving them childless. 

Here, then, was a situation. Bhishma and the Queen- Mother, 
both of an age, left without an heir ! After Eastern fashion she 
urges him to take his half-brother's place, and raise up offspring 
to his father and to herself. But Bhishma is firm to his oath. 
"Earth," he says, "may renounce its scent, water its moisture, 
light its attribute of showing form, yea ! even the sun may renounce 
its glory, the comet its heat, the moon its cool rays, and very space 
renounce its capacity for generating sound ; but I cannot renounce 
Truth," Pressed to the uttermost he can only reiterate : " I will 
renounce the three worlds, the empire of heaven, and anything 
which may be greater than this, but Truth I will not renounce." 

Poor Bhishma ! One feels that he is a veritable Sir Galahad, 

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The Days of the Epics 15 

beset by loving women, for when another father for possible heirs 
is found, Amvika, who had expected Bhishma, refuses to look at 
his successor, the result being that her son Dhritarashta is born 
blind, and being thus unfitted for kingship, Amvalika's son Pandu 
bepomes heir to the throne. 

Hinc illea lachrytnae / Bhishma' s vow of celibacy produces the 
rivals, and his part in the epic henceforward shows but dimly on 
the bloody background of the long quarrel between the hundred 
God-given sons of Dhritarashta, and the five God-begotten sons of 

Yet, overlaid as it is by diffuse divergencies, the story of self- 
sacrifice, of a man whom all women love and none can gain, goes 
on. Bhishma, on Pandu's death, installs the blind Dhritarashta as 
Regent King, and continues, as ever, faithful to his trust. Once 
or twice a ring of human pathos, human regret, is heard in the 
harmony of his good counsels, his unswerving loyalty, his fast 
determination to " pay the debt arising out of the food which has 
been given me." 

Once when Arjuna, third of the five Pandus, climbs up on his 
knees, all dust-laden from some boyish game, and, full of pride 
and glee, claims him as father—" I am not thjr father, O Bharata ! " 
is the gentle reply. 

Again, when Amva, the eldest princess of the three maidens 
whom Bhishma had carried off as brides for his brother, returns 
in tears from seeking the lover he had allowed her to rejoin, saying 
that the prince will have none of Bhishma's leavings, there is 
human regret in the tatter's refusal to accept the assertion that 
the carrying off was equal to a betrothal, and that he is bound in 
honour to marry the maiden himself ! Yet of this refusal comes 
much. The injured girl calls on High Heaven for requital, and 
though her champion Rama is unable to conquer the invincible 
Bhishma, Fate intervenes finally. 

Amva's penances, prayers, austerities, find fruit in revenge. 
She is born again as Chikandmi, the daughter of a great king 
whose wife conceals the child's sex for twenty-one years, until, 
according to the promise of the Gods, Chikandtni becomes in 
reality Chikandin, the most beautiful, the most valiant of princes, 
who is destined in time to cause the death of Bhishma. For 
amongst the many confessions of a soldier's faith which the latter 
here makes is this : " With one who hath thrown away his sword, 
with one fallen, with one flying, with one yielding, with woman or 


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1 6 The Ancient Age 

one bearing the name of woman, or with a low, vulgar fellow — 
with all these I do not battle." So Chikandfn is beyond 
Bhishma's retaliation, and when in the final fight he "struck 
the great Bharata full on the breast," the latter "only looked 
at him with eyes blazing with wrath ; remembering his woman- 
hood, Bhishma struck him not." 

This, however, was not yet to come. Bhishma had as yet to 
bring up the five Pandu princes and the hundred sons of Dhritarashta 
to be good warriors and true, and in the process we come across 
many quaint interludes. The story of Princess Draupadi's Self- 
choice is charming, and the description of the ceremony worth 
giving as a picture of the times. 

"The amphitheatre," we read, "was erected on an auspicious 
and level plain to the north-east of the town, surrounded on all 
sides by beautiful mansions, enclosed with high walls and a moat 
with arched doorways here and there. And the vast amphitheatre 
was also shaded by a canopy of various colours, and resounded 
with the notes of a thousand trumpets, and was scented with 
black aloes, and sprinkled with sandal wood water and adorned 
with flowers. The high mansions surrounding it, perfectly white, 
resembled the cloud-kissing peaks of Himalaya. And the windows 
of these mansions were covered with lattice of gold, and the walls 
thereof set with diamonds and precious stones. The staircases 
were easy of ascent, while the floors were covered with costly 
carpets and rugs. Now all these mansions were adorned with 
wreaths of flowers and rendered fragrant with excellent aloes. 
They were white and spotless as the necks of swans. And they 
were each furnished with a hundred doors wide enough to admit 
a crowd of persons. And in these seven-storied houses of various 
sizes, adorned with costly beds and carpets, lived the monarchs 
who were invited to the Self-choice, their persons adorned with 
every ornament, and possessed with the hope of excelling each 
other." Thus the denizens of the city and the surrounding country, 
taking their seats on the platforms, beheld these things. 

"And the concourse of princes, gay with the performances of 
actors and dancers, increased daily, until on the sixteenth morning 
the daughter of the King entered the arena, richly attired and 
bearing in her hand a golden dish on which lay offerings to the 
gods, and a garland of flowers. 

" Then a priest of the Moon race ignited the sacrificial fires and 
poured libations, uttering benedictions ; and all the musical instru- 
ments that were playing, stopped, and in the whole amphitheatre 
was perfect stillness. Then the Princess' brother, taking his sister 
by the hand, cried in a voice low and deep as the kettledrums of 


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The Days of the Epics tj 

the clouds : ' Hear all ye assembled Princes, hear ! This is the 
bow, these are the arrows, yonder is the mark ! Given Beauty, 
Strength, Lineage, he who achieveth the feat hath Princess 
Driupadi to wife.' Then, for the sake of her unrivalled Beauty, 
the young Princes vied with each other in jealousy, and rising in 
their royal seats each exclaiming : ' Princess Drlupadi shall be 
mine ! ' began to exhibit their prowess." 

It would take too long to give in extenso how one after the other 
the Princes failed to string the mighty bow. How Kirna — the 
Disinherited Knight of the Romance ; in reality uterine brother to 
the five Pandu princes, but passing as their deadliest Kurn enemy — 
strung it easily, but " turned aside with a laugh of vexation and 
a glance at the Sun, his real father," when Princess Driupadi 
cried : " Hold ! I will have none of mixed blood to my lord ! " 

How the young Arjuna, second of the five Pandu princes, " first 
of car-warriors and wielders of the bow," came disguised as a 
Brahman youth and achieved the feat ; rousing no remonstrance, 
it may be remarked, as to admixture of race from the fair Princess 

Then follows the incident of Draupadi marrying the whole five 
Pandu brothers, in obedience to their mother's mistaken com- 
mand. She, when her five sons appeared in the dusk, " bringing 
their alms," bid them share it as ever ; so, despite much heart- 
questioning, the fivefold wedding took place. It is an incident 
which is glozed over by ardent admirers of the Mihabharata, and 
spoken of deprecatingly, as a mere myth. Why, it would be 
difficult to say, since it is palpably held up to honour as an instance 
of almost superhuman virtue. It is a voluntary self-abnegation 
on the part of the Five Princes, who swear to set aside jealousy for 
ever ; an attempt on their part to right the relations between the 
sexes, and to return to the purer teaching of old times when, as 
we are distinctly told, "men and women followed their own 
inclinations without shame or sin " ; certainly the record of this 
union of the Five Brothers to the devoted, almost divine Dr&upadi, 
holds no suspicion of either the one or the other ; surely, therefore, 
it requires neither disguise nor apology. 

Thereinafter, amid ever-recurring sweep of furious blasts and 
counterblasts, ever-changing chances of fortune and misfortune, 
comes the great gambling scene which, deprived of disagree- 
able details and properly staged, should make the fortune of 



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1 8 The Ancient Age 

any dramatist who could really touch it. A fine scene, truly ! 
Yudishthira, eldest of the Pandu princes, their ruling spirit, the 
brain, so to speak, of Bhima's strength, Arjuna's skill, Nakula's 
devotion, Sahadeva's obedience, had been challenged to a gambling 
bout by his chief enemy, Dhritarashta's eldest son Duryodhlna. 
To this, according to the soldier's code of honour, there could be 
no refusal. But Yudishthira, gambler at heart, would not acknow- 
ledge himself beaten. He stakes his riches, his kingdom, his 
brothers, himself —last of all, his wife. 

Losing her, she is sent for to the gambling saloon. She refuses 
to come. Finally, dragged thither by force, she pleads that 
Yudishthira, having first gambled away himself, was a slave, and 
so had no right to stake a free woman. Then ensues a scene of 
conflicting passions and protest which, once read of, lingers in the 
mind, rising superior to the certain disagreeable details which 
undoubtedly disfigure it in the original. 

So the story sweeps on and on, ending really with Bhishma's 
death on the field of battle after a final encounter in which Arjuna, 
realising that victory is unattainable so long as " the Grandsire n 
lives, uses Chikandin, the man-woman, as his shield, and so brings 
about the defeat of the otherwise invincible Bhishma. The latter, 
" lying on his bed of arrows," surrounded by all the princes, then 
proceeds to discourse for long days ("until the sun, entering its 
northern declension, permitted him to resign his life-breath ,J ) on 
the whole duty of mankind, and especially on the duties of 

These discourses, which in the English translation run to over 
2000 pages, are marvellously illuminating. When we read in 
them doctrines of kingly science which long centuries later were 
to be re-enunciated by Machiavelli, when we find in them many a 
theory of modern science forestalled by some bold, theoretical 
plunge into the Infinite, that Infinite to which " it is impossible to 
set limits since it is limitless," we may well pause to ask ourselves 
how much nearer we are to discovering the Great Secret than 
those were who, nearly three thousand years ago, puzzled them- 
selves over the problem of consciousness, and why, "when the 
mind is otherwise engaged, the life-agent in the body heareth not." 

Have we, even in science, gone much further than the assertion 
that "Space, which even the Gods cannot measure, is full of 
blazing and self-luminous worlds?" 

Perhaps we have ; but of a certainty we cannot outclass the 


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The Days of the Epics 19 

Mah&bh&rata in the imagination with which it treats the 

"In the Beginning," we read, "was infinite Space motionless, 
immoveable. Without Sun, Moon, or Stars, it seemed to be 
asleep. Then a darkness grew within the darkness, and water 
sprang to life." 

So, gaining force as it goes like some giant wave, the vast epic 
sweeps on, gathering worthless pebbles and hopeless wreckage, 
"with its thousand facets of bright bold sea, to leave one, after it 
has crashed over us, bewildered, storm -shaken on the shore, our 
heads whirling with wild memories of flashing, jewel-set cuirasses, 
" beautiful like the firmament of night bespangled with stars," of 
floating veils "like wind -tossed clouds," of celestial voices, "deep 
as the kettledrums of the skies," of " sparkling showers of keen 
arrows like the rays of the sun," of" tender, small- waisted maidens," 
and " mighty, high-souled car-warriors." 

It is a marvellous dream, and as one reads it the ceaseless fall 
of seas upon a shore seems to fill the ear with the eternal message 
of indestructible life. 

The RAmiyana, great though the epic is, and, in a way, more 
poetical, has none of this storm and stress. As R. C. Dutt, in his 
" Ancient India," says : — 

" On reading it one feels that the real heroic age of India had 
passed. We miss the rude and sturdy manners and incidents 
which mark the M&hibh&rata. The heroes of the Rlm&yana are 
somewhat tame and commonplace personages, very respectful to 
priests, very anxious to conform to all the rules of decorum and 
duty, doing a vast amount of fighting work mechanically, but 
without the determination, the persistence of real fighters. A 
change has come over the spirit of the nation. It is more polished, 
more law-abiding, less sturdy, less heroic. In brief, the two epics 
give us the change which Hindu life and society underwent from 
the commencement to the close of the Epic age." 

Griffiths, in the introduction to his metrical version of the 
R&m&yana, remarks that one of its most salient features is the 
complete absence of any mention of "that mystical devotion which 
absorbs all the faculties," to which we have constant reference in 
the Mahibhirata. The remark is full of critical acumen, and at 
once differentiates the varying planes on which the two dramas 


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20 The Ancient Age 

That of Rama and his long-suffering wife Sita, is, doubtless, the 
more human of the two ; but there is a grandeur about the story 
of Bhishma before which the former crumbles to commonplace. 
Still, as R. C. Dutt asserts :— 

" There is not a Hindu woman in the length and breadth of India 
to whom the story of Sfta is not known, and to whom her character 
is not a model to strive after and to emulate. Rama, also, though 
scarcely equal to Sita in the worth of character, has been a model 
to man for his truth, his obedience, his piety. Thus the epic has 
been for the millions of India a means of moral education, the 
value of which can hardly be over-estimated." 

Historically, there is little to be gleaned from it beyond the 
conquest of Southern India and Ceylon. Socially, it shows the 
accretion of custom, the consolidation of dogma, and the passing 
of power from the soldier to the priestly caste. Yet even here it 
is but a very modified Brahmanism of which we catch glimpses, 
and even caste itself is not as yet crystallised into hard and fast 

So, with the Ramayana and some few Puranas which, however, 
will be better considered in the next chapter, the Epic period 

Some few points in it may lay claims to distinct historical basis. 
The existence of Janaka, King of Kosala, the father of Sfta, the 
befriender of wisdom, is so far attested by later writings and by 
legend, that his personality gains reality ; but it is in the crashing, 
confused welter of the Mahabharata that we must look for a just 
estimate of what India was like a thousand years before Christ. 


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B.C. IOOO to A.D. I 

A millennium indeed ! A thousand years of Time which (despite 
many purely historical events in its latter half, to which return 
will be made in the next chapter) must be treated, as a whole, as 
perhaps the most wonderful period in the history of the world. 
For, just as in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries humanity 
appears to have set its mind on art, and such names as Shakspeare, 
Dante, Rafael, Leonardo da Vinci, Palestrina, Cervantes, and a 
hundred others are to bfe found jostling each other in history, 
so, during these thousand years, the mind of man throughout 
the whole world appears to have been set on solving the great 
secret of Life and Death. - 

The answer was given in many ways by the Greek and Roman 
philosophers, by Confucius in China, by Christ in Judea, by 
Buddha and the great systems of Indian philosophy in Hindustan ; 
and yet the question is still being asked with the old intensity, the 
old keen desire for answer ! 

Now, since these thousand years have, in India, left behind them 
a very remarkable literature which, even in these latter days, is 
the root of all life and thought in that vast peninsula, it is as well 
to attempt a slight sketch of the time, as a whole, before embark- 
ing on actual history; though to do the latter we shall, after 
treating of the religious age, have to hark back to the year 
620 B.C. 

At the commencement, then, of this thousand years, the Aryans 
were still pushing their way westwards and southwards from the 
alluvial plains of Northern India. 

It seems likely that the tide of their conquest followed that of the 
retreating sea. However that may be, certain it is that they found 
before them dark, almost impenetrable, swampy forests, swarming 


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22 The Ancient Age 

with enemies of all kinds. Who or what these were we have at 
first small record. Doubtless the human foes belonged to the 
aboriginal tribes which are still to be found clinging to the far 
mountain uplands and inaccessible fastnesses which the Aryans did 
not care to annex. But in the literature of which mention has 
been made, all and sundry are disdainfully dismissed with the 
epithet " Rakshas? or evil demons. 

Behind this shrinking verge of devildom, however, we know that 
" the children of light " were settling down ; towns were springing 
up, waste land was being cleared and cultivated, schools were 
being established, and many principalities rising into power. But 
of a41 this we have as yet no record at all, until about one-half of 
the millennium was over. On the other hand, we have exhaustive 
literary evidence of what the minds of men were busying them- 
selves about, first in the Upani shads, and then in the myriad 
Sutras or Aphorisms, on every subject, apparently, under the sun, 
which are still extant. 

Regarding the former — of which the German philosopher, 
Schopenhauer, wrote : " They have been the solace of my life ; they 
will be the solace of my death" — though some of these treatises 
or essays belong, undoubtedly, to the dying years of the Epic age, 
they fall far more naturally into place during the opening years 
of this, the succeeding one. Their bold hypotheses covering all 
things were the first reaction against the soul-stifling formalisms of 
the Brahmanas ; these, again, being due to the development of 
the dignity of the priestly class, which followed naturally on the 
excessive militarism so noticeable in the Mahabharata. Of a 
truth, its stalwart warriors, for ever engaged in deadly combat 
and stirring adventures, as heads of households could have had 
little time for the due performance of domestic ceremonials after 
the customs of their fathers. Hence the rapid growth of the pro- 
fessional priesthood. 

The fatal facility, however, with which speculative thought, 
after throwing off the shackles of canon and dogma, finds fresh 
slavery for itself in scientific formalism, is shown by the succeeding 
Sutra literature, in which every department of thought and action 
is crystallised and codified into cut-and-dried form. 

A reaction from this, again, is to be found in the succeeding 
philosophy of Kapila and his disciples, which must have been 
promulgated a century or so before the birth of G&utama Buddha. 
Frankly agnostic, many of the conclusions of this Sankhya system 


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The Marvellous Millennium 23 

are to be found in the works of the latest German philosophers. 
Like theirs it is cold, and appeals not to the masses, but to 
speculative scholars. Still, it is strange that the very first recorded 
system of philosophy in the world, the very first attempt to solve 
the Great Question by the light of reason alone, should differ 
scarcely at all from the last. The human brain fails now, as it 
failed then ; for Kapila's doctrine never really overset those of the 
Opanishads, though the system of philosophy founded upon these 
last (and therefore called the Vedanta) was not to come for many 
years. But what, indeed, can or could overset the doctrine laid 
down in these same Upanishads, of a Universal Soul, a Universal 
Self, which is — to use the very words of the text : — 

" Myself within the heart smaller than a corn of rice, smaller 
than a mustard seed, smaller than the kernel of a canary seed : 
myself within the heart greater than the earth, greater than the 
sky, greater than heaven. Lo ! He who beholds all beings in this 
Self, and Self in all beings, he never turns away from it. When 
to a man who understands, the Self has become all things, what 
sorrow, what trouble can there be to him who has once beheld that 
unity? He, the Self, encircles all, bright, incorporeal, scatheless, 
pure, untouched by evil ; a seer, wise, omnipresent, self-existent, 
he disposed all things rightly for eternal years. He therefore who 
knows this, after having become quiet, subdued, satisfied, patient 
and collected, sees Self in Self, sees all in Self. Evil does not 
overcome him, he overcomes all evil. Free from evil, free from 
stain, free from doubt, he becomes True Brahman. The wise 
who, meditating on this Self, recognises the Ancient who dwells 
for ever in the abyss, as God — he indeed leaves joy and sorrow 
far behind ; having reached the subtle Being, he rejoices because 
he has obtained the cause of rejoicing." 

Such words as these live for ever, a veritable Light in the 
Darkness of many philosophies. 

Yet even the Vedanta teaching failed to satisfy the masses ; 
its atmosphere was too rarefied for them. So about the middle 
of the millennium a new Teacher arose. G&utama Buddha was 
born about the year B.c. 560 at Kapilav&stu, and the followers of 
the religion of which he was the founder number at this present 
day nearly one-third of the whole human race. 

A magnificent work truly, look at it how we may ! Yet it 
becomes the more astounding when we enquire into the religion 
itself; for it holfls out no bait to humanity. It neither gives the 


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24 The Ancient Age 

immediate and certain grip on a spiritual and therefore eternal 
life which the Vedanta promises, neither does it proclaim the 
personal individual immortality for which the Christian is taught 
to look. 

Yet it holds its place firmly as first favourite with humanity. 
There are some five hundred million Buddhists, as against some 
three hundred million Christians ; while about the tenth century 
of our era fully one-half the world's inhabitants followed the 
teaching of G&utama. 

Why is this ? Wherein lies the charm ? Possibly in its pessi- 
mism, in the declaration that all is, must be, suffering. 

" Hear ! O Bhikkhus ! the Noble Truth of Suffering. Birth is 
suffering, decay is suffering, illness is suffering, Death is suffering. 

" Hear ! O Bhikkhus ! the Noble Truth of the cause of suffer- 
ing. Thirst for pleasure, thirst for life, thirst for prosperity, thirst 
that leads to new birth. 

u Hear ! O Bhikkhus ! the Noble Truth of the cessation of 
Suffering. It is the destruction of desire, the extinction of thirst. 

" Hear ! O Bhikkhus ! the Noble Truth of the Pathway which 
leads to the cessation of suffering. Right Belief, Right Aspira- 
tions, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Means of Livelihood, 
Right Exertion, Right-mindedness, Right Meditation." 

In these few words lies the whole teaching of Buddhism. To 
king and beggar alike, the world is evil ; there is but one road to 
freedom, and that must be trodden alike by all. In that road none 
is before or after others. 

Now to the poor, to the oppressed, there is balm in this thought. 
Lazarus does not yearn for Abraham's bosom ! Before all lies 
forgetfulness, peace, personal annihilation. 

This, then, was the teaching which Giutama Buddha, the son 
of a king, gave as a gift to his world ; and his world, wearied 
yet once more with formalism, with the ever-growing terrorism of 
caste and creed, welcomed it with open arms. The progress of 
the Buddhistic faith was fairly astounding, and half India was 
converted in the twinkling of an eye. Of the life led by the founder 
himself much has been written. Many of the incidents bear a 
strange resemblance to those in the life of Christ. Perhaps none 
is more beautiful than the story of the woman who applied to 
Giutama, begging him to restore her dead child to life. As given 
in Sir Edwin Arnold's Light of Asia, it runs so ;— 


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The Marvellous Millennium 25 

" Whom, when they came unto the river side, 

A woman — dove-eyed, young, with tearful face 

And lifted hands saluted, bending low : 
. • Lord ! thou art he,' she said, ' who yesterday 

Had pity on me . . . 

when I came 
Trembling to thee whose brow is like a god's, 
And wept, and drew the face-cloth from my babe, 
Praying thee tell what simples might be good.' . . . 

' Yea ! little sister, there is that might heal 

Thee first and him, if thou couldst fetch the thing. 

Black mustard-seed a tola ; only mark 

Thou take it not from any hand or house 

Where father, mother, child or slave hath died.' 

' Thus didst thou speak, my Lord. 

... I went, Lord, clasping to my breast 

The babe grown colder, asking at each hut : 

" I pray you, give me mustard, of your grace 

A tola, black," and each who had it gave. 

But when I asked : " In my friend's household here 

Hath any, peradventure, ever died ? 

Husband or wife or child or slave ? " they said : 

"Oh, Sister ! what is this you ask? The dead 

Are very many, and the living few." . . . 

Ah sir ! I could not find a single house 

Where there was mustard seed, and none had died.' 

" ' My sister ! thou hast found,' the Master said, 
4 Searching for what none finds that better balm 
I had to give thee. . . . 
Lo ! I would pour my blood if it could stay 
Thy tears, and win the secret of that curse 
Which makes sweet love our anguish . . . 
I seek that secret : bury thou thy child.' " 

Buddha, it will be observed, answered no questions. He left 
the insoluble alone. He simply preached that holiness meant 
peace and love, that peace and love meant pure earthly 

So, even while they accepted the morality of Buddhism, and 
acquiesced in its negation, the keener speculative minds were 
still busy trying to find some key to fit the Great Lock. 

The Yoga system of philosophy followed on the Sankhya, the 
Nyaya and the Vaisasika on the Yoga ; finally, the two Mimamsaor 
Vedanta philosophies. Of these the Yoga is merely a repetition, 
with some alteration, of the Sankhya ; the Nyaya — which is to the 


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2& The Ancient Age 

Hindu what the Aristotelian system was to the Greek, and which 
is still the school of logic — finds its complement in the scientific 
and atomic theories of the Vaisasika. This last, which is the first 
effort made in India to enquire into the laws of physics, gives us 
of these latter days furiously to think. A Rip-van- Winklish feeling 
creeps into the mind as the eyes read that all material substances 
are aggregates of atoms, that the ultimate atom must be simple, 
that the mote visiblejn the sunbeam, though the smallest perceptible 
object, must yet be a substance, therefore a thing composed of 
things smaller than itself. 

Once again the question arises, "How much further have we 
gone towards solution ?* 

Of the Vedanta system enough has already been said. It is 
pure Monism, matter being but a manifestation of the Supreme 
Energy, the Supreme Soul, the Supreme Self which comprises 
all things, holds all things, is all things. 

So much for the speculative thought of this remarkable age. 
But when we turn to other subjects, we find the same truly 
marvellous acumen displayed in almost every field of enquiry. 

Panini, whom Max Muller called the greatest grammarian the 
world has ever seen, lived in the middle of this millennium, and 
by resolving Sanskrit to its simple roots, paved the way for the 
Science of Languages. It is strange, indeed, to think of him in 
the dawn of days discovering what was to be rediscovered more 
than two thousand years afterwards, and adopting half the philo- 
logical formulas of the present century. 

So with geometry, a science which certainly developed from 
the strict rules concerning the erection of altars, as the science 
of phonetics grew from the study necessary to ensure absolutely 
accurate intonations of the sacred text. Of the former science 
much is to be found in the Sulva Sutras ; amongst other things, 
the celebrated theorem that the square of the hypothenuse is equal 
to the square of the two other sides of a rectangular triangle. 
This proposition is ascribed by the Greeks to Pythagoras, but it 
was known in India long before his time, and it is supposed that 
he learnt it while on his travels, which included Hindustan. 

Geometry, however, was not destined to take hold of the 
Indian mind. The cognate science of numbers speedily took its 
place, and the acute Asiatic intellect soon evolved Algebra out of 
the arithmetic which they had rendered of practical use by the 
adoption of the decimal system of notation. 


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The Marvellous Millennium 27 

For all these many discoveries the world is indebted to this 
marvellous millennium. 

Regarding the social life of this time the Dharma Sutras give 
us endless laws — which are the originals or later and codified 
laws— concerning almost every subject under the sun. As every 
Hindu student (and every Hindu had to be student for a definite 
number of years) had to learn these Sutras by heart, it may safely 
be predicted that they faithfully reflect the general conduct of 
affairs. They are extraordinarily minute in particular, and from 
them it may be gathered that life had become much more arti- 
ficial. Amongst the king's duties is that of "guarding house- 
hold weights and measures from falsification." It may also be 
noticed that " the taxes payable by those who support themselves 
by personal labour differ materially from those paid by mere 
possessors of property." Any injury, also, to a cultivator's land 
or to an artisan's trade was punished with great severity, and 
violence in defence of them was held justifiable. A legal rate 
of interest was settled, and the laws of inheritance were laid 
down minutely, as also were those of marriage. Indeed, as Mr 
R. C. Dutt puts it :— 

"Everything that was confused during the Epic period was 
brought to order — everything that was discursive was condemned ; 
opinions were arranged and codified into bodies of laws, and 
the whole social system of the Hindus underwent a similar rigid 

Briefly, it was at once an age of keen speculation and rapid 
crystallisation almost unequalled in the history of any nation. 
Nor have we to found this estimate of it solely by inference 
from the literature which it has left behind it. We have other 
evidence on which to draw. True, the earliest foreign notice of 
India is that of Hekataios of Miletus, who wrote about" B.C. 520, 
but he seems only to have been aware of its existence. The 
next is that of some inscriptions of the Persian king, Darius, 
which may be dated about B.C. 486, while Ktesias of Knidos, 
who collected travellers' tales about the East, wrote a little 
later. But Alexander's Indian campaign, which began in the 
year B.c. 327, brought many Western eyes to wonder at what 
they saw, and from this time Greece practically gives us the 
chronology of Hindustan. 

Of what these Western eyes saw we gain glimpses in the few 


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2# The Ancient Age 

fragments of the works of Megasthenes which have withstood 
the destruction of time. Living, as he did, in the fourth century 
B.c. as Ambassador at the court of Paliputra, he gives us a 
picture of the times well worth reading, with a few extracts 
from which this chapter may well conclude. 

" The inhabitants, having abundant means of subsistence, exceed, 
in consequence, the ordinary stature, and are distinguished by 
their proud bearing. They are also found to be well skilled in 
the arts, as might be expected of men who inhale a pure air 
and drink the very finest water . . . they almost always gather 
in two harvests annually ; and even should one of the sowings 
prove more or less abortive, they are always sure of the other 
crop. It is accordingly affirmed that famine has never visited 
India, and that there has never been any general scarcity in 
the supply of nourishing food. . . . But, further, there are usages 
observed by the Indians which contribute to prevent the occur- 
rence of famine among them ; for whereas amongst other nations 
it is usual, in the contests of war, to ravage the soil, and thus 
to reduce it to an uncultivated waste, among the Indians, on 
the contrary, by whom husbandmen are regarded as a class 
that is sacred and inviolable, the tillers of the soil, even when 
battle is raging in their neighbourhood, are undisturbed by any 
sense of danger, since the combatants allow them to remain 
quite unmolested. Neither do they ravage a land with fire nor 
cut down its trees. . . . The Indians do not raise monuments to 
the dead, but consider the virtues which men have displayed 
in life and the songs in which their praises are celebrated, 
sufficient to preserve their memory. ... All the Indians are free, 
and not one of them is a slave. The Indians do not even use 
aliens as slaves, and much less one of their own countrymen. . . . 
They live frugally and observe very good order. Theft is of 
very rare occurrence. The simplicity of their laws and their 
contracts is proved by the fact that they seldom appeal to law. 
They have no suits about pledges or deposits, nor do they require 
either seals or witnesses, but make their deposits and confide 
in each other. They neither put out money at usury or know 
how to borrow. . . . Truth and virtue they hold alike in esteem. 
... In contrast to the general simplicity of their style, they love 
finery and ornaments. Their robes are worked in gold, adorned 
with precious stones, and they wear flowered garments of the 
finest muslin. Attendants walking behind hold umbrellas over 
them ; for they have a high regard for beauty, and avail them- 
selves of every device to improve their looks. . . . 

" Of the great officers of state, some have charge of the market, 
others of the city, others of the soldiers, while some superintend 
tfye canals and measure the land, some collect the taxes, and some 


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The Marvellous Millennium 29 

construct roads and set up pillars to show the by-roads and the 

"Those who have charge of the city are divided into six bodies 
of five each. The first body looks after industrial art. The 
second attends to the entertainments of strangers, taking care 
of them, well or ill, and, in the event of their dying, burying 
them and forwarding their property to their relatives. The third 
enquires of births and deaths, so that these among both high and 
low may not escape the cognisance of Government. The fourth 
deals with trade and commerce, and has charge of weights and 
measures. The fifth supervises the sale of manufactured articles 
which are sold by public notice, and the sixth collects the tithe 
on such articles. There is, beside the city magistrates, a third 
body, which directs military affairs. One division of this has 
charge of the infantry, another of the cavalry, a third of the 
war chariots, a fourth of the elephants ; while one division is 
appointed to co-operate with the admiral of the fleet and another 
with the superintendent of the bullock trains used for transporting 
the munitions of war." 

So much for the East before it was gripped by the West. 
With a full-blown War Office, and a statistical registration of 
births and deaths, it appears to have gone far on the course 
of our civilisation. 

Concerning the "Brahmanes," as the old writers term the 
Brahmans, Megasthenes says of them that they live in groves, 

"spend their time in listening to sermons, discourses, and in 
imparting knowledge to such as will listen to them. The hearer 
is not allowed to speak, or even to cough, and much less to spit, 
and if he offends in any of these ways, he is cast out from their 
society that very day, as being a man who is wanting in self- 
restraint. Death is with them a very frequent subject of dis- 
course. They regard this life as, so to speak, the time when 
the child within the womb matures, and death as the birth 
into a new and happy life. They go about naked, saying that 
God has given the body as sufficient covering for the soul." 

One may still hear this teaching given in the mango groves, 
or in the shade of a banyan tree, throughout this India of the 
twentieth century. 

And it still satisfies the hearers. 


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THE SESU-NAGA (and other) KINGS 

B.C. 620 TO B.C. 327 

We stand now on the threshold of actual history. Before us lie 
two thousand five hundred years ; and behind us ? Who can say ? 
From the far distance come the reverberating thunders of the 
Mahabharata, still filling the ear with stories of myth and miracle. 
But the days of these are over. Henceforward, we are to listen 
to nothing save facts, to believe nothing to which our ordinary 
everyday experience cannot give its assent. 

Who, then, were these Sesu-naga kings of whom we read in 
the lists of dead dynasties given in the Puranas— those curious 
histories of the whole cosmogony of this world* and the next, 
some of which can now be fairly proved to have existed in the 
very first centuries of our era, and, even then, to have carried 
with them an accredited claim to hoar antiquity? 

How came these kings by their name Ses, or Shesh-naga? A 
name which indubitably points to their connection with the sacred 
snake, or " nig." 

Were they of Scythic origin? Nothing more likely. Certain 
it is that Scythic hordes invaded India from the north-east, 
both during and after the age of the Epics. It is conjectured, 
also, that they met in conflict with the Aryan invaders from 
the north-west on the wide, Gangetic plains, possibly close to 
the junction of the Sone River with the Ganges. 

Here, at any rate, lay the ancient kingdom of Mag&dha, the 
kingdom of these Ses-naga kings. 

There were ten of these kings, and of the first four, we, as 
yet, know nothing. But almost every year sees fresh inscriptions 
deciphered, new coins discovered, and therefore it is not unlikely 
that some day these mere dry-as-dust names, Sesu-ndga, Saka- 
virna, Kshema-dharman, and Kshattru-jas, may live again as 

The Sesu-riAga (and other) Kings 31 

personalities. At present we must be content with imagining 
them in their palace at Raja-griha, or "The kings abode sur- 
rounded by mountains." 

It has a curiously distinguished, dignified sound, this descrip- 
tion. One can imagine these Ses-naga princes, their Scythian 
faces, flat, oblique - eyed, yet aquiline, showing keen under the 
golden-hooded snake standing uraeus-like over their low foreheads, 
riding up the steep, wide steps leading to their high - perched 
palaces, on their milk-white steeds ; these latter, no doubt, be- 
bowed with blue ribbons and bedyed with pink feet and tail, 
after the fashion of processional horses in India even nowadays. 
Riding up proudly, kings, indeed, of their world, holders of untold 
wealth in priceless gems and gold — gold, unminted, almost value- 
less, jewels recklessly strung, like pebbles on a string. 

This legend, indeed, of countless uncounted gold, of fair women, 
and almost weird, rough luxury, lingers still around the very name 
of Snake-King, and holds its own in the folk-lore of India. 

In these days the kingdom of Magadha— so far as we can 
judge, a Scythic principality — was just entering the lists against 
that still more ancient Aryan kingdom of Kos&la, of which we 
read in the Ramiyana. But there were other principalities in the 
settled country which lay between the extreme north-west of the 
Punjab and Ujjain, or Milwa. Sixteen such states are enumerated 
in various literary — chiefly religious — works, which were probably 
compiled in the fifth century B.c. ; but these, again, are mere dry- 
as-dust names. 

The first breath of real life comes with Bimbi-sara, the fifth Sesu- 
naga king. He, we know, conquered and annexed the principality 
of Anga and built the city of New Rajagriha, which lies at the base 
of the hill below the old fort. But something there is in his reign 
which grips attention more than conquests or buildings. During 
it, and under his rule, the founders of two great religions gave 
to the world their solutions of the problem of life. In all 
probability both Mah&vfra and Gautama Buddha were born in 
Bimbi-sara's days ; certain it is that he must have heard the first 
teachings of Jainism and Buddhism preached at his palace doors. 
He is supposed to have reigned for nearly five and twenty years, 
and then to have retired into private life, leaving his favourite 
son, Ajata-sutru, as regent. 

And here tragedy sets in ; tragedy in which Buddhist tradition 
avers that Deva-datta, the Great Teacher's first cousin and bitterest 


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3* The Ancient Age 

enemy, was prime mover. For one of the many crimes imputed 
to this arch-schismatic by the orthodox, is that he instigated Ajata- 
sutru to put his father to death. 

Whether this be true or not, certain it is that Bimbi-sara was 
murdered, and by his son's orders ; for in one of the earliest 
Buddhist manuscripts extant there is an account of the guilty 
son's confession to the Blessed One (*>., Buddha) in these words : 
" Sin overcame me, Lord, weak, and foolish, and wrong that I am, 
in that for the sake of sovranty I put to death my father, that 
righteous man, that righteous king." 

If, as tradition has it, that death was compassed by slow starva- 
tion, the prompt absolution which Buddha is said to have given 
the royal sinner for this act of atrocity becomes all the more 
remarkable. His sole comment to the brethren after Ajata- 
sutru had departed appears to have been : " This king was deeply 
affected, he was touched in heart. If he had not put his father to 
death, then, even as he sate here, the clear eye of truth would have 
been his." 

Apart from this parricidal act, the motive for which he gives 
with such calm brutality, Ajata-sutru seems to have been a strong, 
capable king. He had instantly to face war with Kosala, the 
murdered man's wife — who, it is said, died of grief— being sister 
to the king of that country. Round this war, long and bloody, 
legend has woven many incidents. At one time Magadha, at 
another Kosala, seems to have come uppermost. Ajata-sutru 
himself was once carried a prisoner in chains to his opponent's 
capital ; but in the end, when peace came, Kosala had given one 
of its princesses in marriage to the King of Mag&dha, and had 
become absorbed in that empire. 

But this was not enough for ambitious Ajita-sutru. He now 
turned his attention to the rich lands north of the Ganges, and 
carried his victorious arms to the very foot of holy Himalaya. 

In the course of this war he built a watch-fort at a village called 
Patali, on the banks of the Ganges, where in after years he founded 
a city which, under the name of Pataliputra (the Palibothra of 
Greek writers), became eventually the capital, not only of Magadha, 
but of India— India, that is, as it was known in these early days. 

Patali is the Sanskrit for the bignonia, or trumpet-flower ; we 
may add, therefore, to our mental picture of the remaining four 
Ses-naga kings, that they lived in Trumpet-flower City. 

For the rest, these two great monarchs, Bimbi-sara and Ajata- 


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The Sesu-n&ga (and other) Kings 33 

sutru, must have been near, if not actual contemporaries of Darius, 
King of Persia, who founded an Indian satrapy in the Indus 
valley. This he was able to do, in consequence of the information 
collected by Sky lax of Karyanda, during his memorable voyage 
by river from the Upper Punjab to the sea near Karachi, thus 
demonstrating the practicability of a passage by water to Persia. 
All record of this voyage is, unfortunately, lost ; but the result of it 
was the addition to the Persian Empire of so rich a province, that 
it paid in gold-dust tribute to the treasury, fully one -third of 
the total revenue from the whole twenty satrapies ; that is to say, 
about one million sterling, which in those days was, of course, an 
absolutely enormous sum. 

There is not much more to tell of Ajita- sutru ; and yet, read- 
ing between the lines of the few facts we actually know of him, 
the man's character shows distinct. Ambitious, not exactly un- 
scrupulous, but uncontrolled. A man who, having murdered his 
father, could weep over his own act, and seek .to obliterate the 
blood-stain on his hands by confessions and pious acts. When 
Buddha died, an eighth portion of his bones was claimed by Ajata- 
sutru, who erected at Rajgriha a magnificent tope or mound over 
the sacred relics. 

But, if tradition is to be believed, he handed down the curse of 
his great crime to his son, his grandson, and his great grandson ; 
for the Ceylon chronicle asserts, that each of these in turn were 
parricides. It is — to use a colloquialism — a tall order ; but asser- 
tion or denial are alike unproven. 

If it be true, there is some relief in finding that the last of these 
criminal kings — Maha-nundin by name— was ousted from his throne 
and killed by his prime minister, one Mahi-padma-Nanda, who is 
said, also, to have been the murdered man's illegitimate son by a 
Sudra, or low-caste woman. 

Whether this latter be true or not, certain it is that about the 
year B.C. 361, or thereabouts, the reign of the Ses-naga kings ends 
abruptly. The dream -vision of the steps of old Rajgriha with 
Scythian princelings — parricidal princelings — riding up to their 
palaces on processional horses, or living luxuriously in Trumpet- 
flower city, vanishes, and something quite as dream-like takes its 

For in the oldest chronicles we are told that there were but two 
generations in the next, or Nanda dynasty — viz. : MAhA-padma and 



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34 The Ancient Age 

his eight sons—yet we are asked to believe that they reigned for 
one hundred and fifty-nine years ! 

In truth, these nine Nandas seem in many ways mythical, and 
yet the very confusion and contradictions which surround their 
history point to some underlying reason for the palpable distor- 
tion of plain fact They are said to have reigned together, the 
father and his eight sons. The name of only one of these is 
known, Suma-lya ; but when Alexander the Great paused on the 
banks of the Beas, in the year B.c. 326, he heard that a king was 
then reigning at Pataliputra, by name Xandrames (so the Greek 
tongue reports it), who had an army of over two hundred thousand 
men, and who was very much disliked, because of his great wicked- 
ness and base birth. For he was said to be the son of a barber, 
and as such, " contemptible and utterly odious to his subjects." 

This king must have belonged to the Nanda dynasty, and the 
story, if it does nothing else, proves that the family was really of 
low extraction. That it gained the throne by the assassination of 
a rightful king, is also certain. But revenge was at hand. The 
tragedy was to be recast, replayed, and in B.c. 321 Chandra-gupta, 
the Sandracottus of the Greeks, himself an illegitimate son of 
the first Nanda, and half-brother, so the tale runs, of the eight 
younger ones, was, after the usual fashion of the East, to find 
foundation for his own throne on the dead bodies of his relations. 

But some four years ere this came to pass, while young Chandra- 
gupta, ambitious, discontented, was still wandering about Northern 
India almost nameless — for his mother was a Sudra woman — he 
came in personal contact with a new factor in Indian history. 
For in March, B.c. 326, Alexander the Great crossed the river 
Indus, and found himself the first Western who had ever stood on 
Indian soil. So, ere passing to the events which followed on 
Chandra-gupta's rude seizure of the throne of Magadha, another 
picture claims attention. The picture of the great failure of a 
great conqueror. 


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B.C. 326 TO B.C. 320 

"Some talk of Alexander. . . ." 

Who does not know the context? Who also does not think 
that he knows who Alexander was, who could not, if necessary, 
reel off a succinct account of his character, his conquests ? 

And yet, though most know of his Anabasis, how few have 
really grasped the picturesque points of his grand sweep on India. 
Who, for instance, has properly appraised and inwardly digested, 
until it remains as a living picture in the mind's eye for ever, that 
quaint thirty days' halt of the Macedonian legions on the western 
bank of the Indus, while on the eastern lay, ripe for plucking, the 
rich harvest of the fertile plains of India ? 

It was not a halt of preparation. Hephaelkion had already 
swung the barges across the tumultuous swirls of the great river, 
and a bridge, unstable, yet firm, lay ready for use. The cohorts 
were eager. Taxiles, the Indian king, had sent from the Takhsha, 
or Snake-City, over the water, half a million of tribute, and an 
advance guard of seven hundred horsemen and thirty caparisoned 
elephants. For he was wily, and the Western army would aid him 
against his hereditary enemy the great Porus, or Puar, a repre- 
sentative, doubtless, of the Rajput tribe of that name, who reigned 
beyond the next river — the Jhelum. 

So there was no real need for this prolonged rest, for this fateful 
pause, ere the West reached out its hand and gripped the East. 
Still, Alexander deemed it necessary for the purpose, as Arrian 
puts it naively, of " offering sacrifice to the gods to whom he was 
in the habit of sacrificing." 

Wherefore ? 

He had conquered many other lands. Whence came this hesita- 
tion, this desire for divine guidance? And wherefore did Taxiles^ 


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36 The Ancient Age 

sacrificing to the gods to whom he was not in the habit of sacri- 
ficing, send over three thousand oxen and ten thousand sheep as 
victims ? 

Who can say ? All we know is, that the sacrifices were favour- 
able to the crossing, as they were bound to be since Alexander had 
made up his mind to it. Whereupon he " celebrated a gymnastic 
and horse contest near the river"; those who took part in it, 
doubtless, wearing crowns of the ivy leaves which the Macedonian 
legions, as Arrian writes, had found at Mount Merus to their great 
delight, "for they had not seen any for a long time. So they 
eagerly made garlands of it, singing hymns in honour of Dionysus." 
It must have been a pleasant rest, a jolly time, those thirty days 
of February and March spent by the sliding river. Those of us 
who know Northern India have memories of many such a sojourn 
in the enchanted no-man's-land of a Punjab river-bed, where the 
soil on which the tent is pitched one year may be deep stream the 
next, and the great solemn cranes stalk amongst the young green 
wheat, and the flocks of flamingoes show rosy-red in the sunrises. 
Bright, bracing memories these, full, as it were, of the wild wings 
of many quaint aquatic birds, full of the deep spoors of the heavy- 
black buffaloes, and the motionless grey logs of bottle-nosed 

Alexander's army, however, had no such wise en scene. At 
Attock— about which place the bridge must have spanned the 
Indus — the river rushes between fixed rocky banks ; the* uneven 
country is broken by ravines, or, rather, deep clefts, which look as 
though they had been split open in the barren, undulating valley 
by the burning summer heat of the sun. And all around, upon a 
near horizon, rise, curiously opalescent at all times, whether red by 
day or white by moonlight, a circle of rocky hills. Elusive hills, 
distant at one moment, seeming to crush in the valley at another. 

One can imagine them rose-red in the dawn, when the order 
came at last, and Alexander the Invincible closed in grips with his 
new antagonist. 

Plain sailing at first, despite the false alarm of the last day's 
march to Taxila, when a complete army in order of battle was seen 
on the horizon, and startled Alexander into instant dispositions for 
attack, until this display of force was proved to be an Indian form 
of honourable reception. The Serpent-City, yielded up to him by 
its willing ruler without a blow, gave occasion "for more sacrifices 
which were customary for him to offer." 


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The Anabasis 37 

Once again, however, not customary to " Taxiles the Indian," 
who must have watched this honouring of strange gods with furtive, 
wily eyes, thinking the while of Porus, with the whole of his mighty 
army waiting on the further side of the Jhelum River for this 
upstart Western conqueror as a spider waits a fly. 

Here at Taxila, also, " the king of the mountaineer Indians sent 
envoys, the embassy including the king's brother, as well as the 
other most notable men." This is one version of the story. 
Another is that Alexander fought a pitched battle with the 
mountaineers, defeating them, of course ; but this is negatived 
by Arrian's distinct assertion that when the conqueror moved 
Jhelum- wards in May, he left behind him only "soldiers who 
were invalided by sickness." 

In those days Taxila was a University city, one of the largest in 
the East — rich, luxurious, populous — noted as the principal seat of 
learning in Northern India. All that is left of it now is some 
miles of ruins between Hasan- Abdal and Rawalpindi, and a few 
copper and silver pieces, more ingots than coins, punched in 
quaint, rude devices. To Alexander it was a hospitable resting- 
place, where king vied with conqueror in lavish generosity of 
mutual gifting. Golden crowns for the Macedonian and all his 
friends ; caparisoned chargers, Persian draperies, banqueting 
vessels for the king and courtiers. 

Pleasant rain fell also, laying the Punjab dust, and hastening the 
flower-buds to bursting. 

But behind all the policy and the pleasure, like a low, distant 
thunder cloud, lay Porus, with an army fifty thousand strong, biding 
his time beyond the river. 

He had to be faced ; so, early in May, Alexander, his small 
force augmented by a contingent from Taxila, arrived on the banks 
of the Hydaspes. Very different weather now from what it had 
been in March. The hot winds were blowing, the rocks and sand 
were all aglow, and in its widening bed, as the Jhelum debauched 
from the hills, the river, swollen by the melting of Himalayan 
snows, showed a turbulent flood, separating him from his enemy, 
who, with all his army and his huge troop of elephants, could be 
seen lining the opposite shore. 

How to cross to him, how to give the invincible Macedonian 
cavalry time to recover and re-form after a forced passage, was the 
problem before Alexander. 
PJe set his camp face to face with his enemy's, and sent back for 


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38' The Ancient Age 

the boats with which he had crossed the Indus. A veritable 
burning of the bridge behind him iir a way ; but Alexander never 
considered defeat. 

The easiest plan would no doubt have been to wait comfortably 
encamped till October chill should have checked the melting of 
summer snow ; but, once again, Alexander considered no delay. 

So there ensued what Arrian terms " the stealing of a passage." 
Day and night long the sentinels of Porus were given no rest. 
Flotillas of boats went up and down the river, reconnaissance 
parties were here, there, everywhere, menacing a ford ; and all 
the while it was being spread about that Alexander, baffled, dis- 
appointed, was fast making up his mind to wait till winter. 

Yet 1 6 miles upwards, almost among the mountains, behind a 
wooded island which shut out the view southward, galleys, rafts, 
skins stuffed with hay, everything needful for a forced passage was 
secretly being prepared. 

Night after night brought a feint of attack. As Arrian writes : — 

"The cavalry was led along the bank in various, directions, 
making a clamour and raising the battle cry ... as if they were 
making all preparations for crossing the river. . . . When this had 
occurred frequently . . . Porus no longer continued to move about 
also ; but, perceiving his fear had been groundless, he kept his 

It was not, however, as Arrian. calls it, by " marvellous audacity" 
only, that Alexander finally succeeded in his object. As one reads 
the minute precautions, the stringent orders, the foresight dis- 
played for every possible complication, one is forced to acknowledge 
the master mind of the commander. Small wonder if the very 
heavens fought for him. It was now July, month of torrential 
rains, fierce storms ; and one of these fell suddenly like a pall 
over Alexander's forced night march of 16 miles—" The noise of 
the thunder," Arrian writes, " drowned with its din the clatter of 
the weapons." 

Thus, noisily yet secretly, the position was gained by the 
11,000 picked troops led by Alexander in person. The storm 
passed; the dawn rose, calm and bright, to find the Western 
soldiers across the stream, crashing through the low undergrowth 
of what their general deemed was the mainland. For it was July 
now, and the rains had brought that marvellous luxuriance of 
sudden life which springs ever from the union of sun and water. 


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The Anabasis 39 

So we can imagine the well-greaved Greeks brushing aside the low 
daphne bushes, and crushing under foot the trailing arches of the 
ground maidenhair fern. To find disappointment await them, as, 
standing on a further shore, they realised that they were on an 
island, that before them lay another formidable channel, swollen 
by the nighfs rain. For a while the cavalry could find no ford ; 
when found, it was but a swimming one. Yet even so, dripping, 
half-drowned, the legions were over and deployed in the open, 
before any attempt at opposition could be made. 

So with Alexander at the head, the West did battle for the first 
time with the East. 

The result was foregone. Outnumbered as it was by nearly 
five to one, Alexander's force was still one of veterans, and 
Alexander himself the foremost military genius of his own or any 

The story, then, of the great battle of the Hydaspes remains as 
a lesson in warfare, and soldiers of to-day may pore over the sketch 
map of it in admiration. Here, in this attempt to give Indian 
history in picturesque form, all minor things, the magnificent 
charges of the Macedonian cavalry, the desperate courage of the 
Indians, even the awful carnage wrought by the maddened 
elephants cooped up within narrow space, all these fade into 
insignificance before the tale — so seldom told as it should be 
told — of the meeting of Alexander and Porus after the battle 
was over in the eighth hour of the day. Let it be told in Arrian's 
own words. 

"When Porus, who exhibited great talent in the battle, perform- 
ing deeds not only of a general, but of a valiant soldier, observed 
the slaughter of his cavalry . . . and that most of his infantry had 
perished, he did not depart, as Darius tjie Persian king did, setting 
an example of flight to his men. ... At last, having received a 
wound ... he turned his elephant round and began to retire. 

"Alexander, having seen him valiant in battle, was very desirous of 
saving his life. Accordingly, he sent >to him first Taxtles the Indian, 
who, riding up ... as near as seemed safe, bade him . . . listen to 
Alexander's message. But when he saw his old foe Taxiles, Porus 
wheeled and prepared to strike him with a javelin, and would 
probably have killed him, if he had not quickly driven his horse 
beyond reach. But not even on this account was Alexander angry 
. . . but kept sending others in succession, and last of all Meroes 
the Indian ... an old friend of Porus. 

" As soon as. the latter heard the message of Meroes, and being 
overcome by thirst from his wound, he dismounted from his 


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40 The Ancient Age 

elephant. After he had drank water and felt refreshed, he ordered 
Meroes to lead him without delay to Alexander. . . . 

"And Alexander rode in front of the line with a few of the 
Companions to meet him, and stopping his horse, admired the 
handsome figure and the stature of Porus, which reached somewhat 
about 5 cubits (6 ft. 6 in.). He was also surprised that he did not 
seem to be cowed in spirit, but advanced to meet him as one brave 
man would meet another brave man. . . . Then, indeed, Alexander 
was the first to speak, bidding him say what treatment he would 
like to receive. 

" * Treat me, O Alexander, in a kingly way ! ' 

" Alexander, pleased, said : * For my own sake, O Porus, I do 
that, but for thine, do thou demand what is pleasing unto thee.' 

" But Porus said all things were included in that, whereupon 
Alexander, being still more pleased, not only granted him the rule 
over his own Indians, but also added another country of larger 
extent than the former to what he had before. Thus he treated the 
brave man in a kingly way, and from that time found him faithful 
in all things/ 

A fine picture this ; one which does not readily desert the 
mind's eye when once it has found place there. And a fine 
beginning also to the dealings of the West with the East. Pity 
that in the years to come the same policy was not always adopted. 

In commemoration of this victory a town was founded on the 
battle-field, and another near the present one of Jhelum, in memory 
of the horse "Bucephalus,'' who died there full of years and honour ; 
not, as Arrian says, 

" from having been wounded by any one, but from the effects of 
toil and old age ; for he was about thirty years old, and quite worn 
out with toils. He had shared many hardships and incurred many 
dangers with Alexander, being ridden by none but the King, because 
he rejected all other riders." 

The triumphal progress through the Doabs, which ensued on 
Alexander's passage of the Hydaspes, was only checked by the 
stout resistance of Sangila, a fortified town as yet unidentified. 
But with the help of a fresh contingent brought by Porus, it was 
razed to the ground as a punishment for its stubborn and useless 

And now before the conqueror lay the river Beas ; beyond it, a 
nation by repute brave, well equipped, more civilised than those 
through which he had passed like a flaming sword. His own 
courage rose high ; to him " there seemed no end of the wars so 
long as anything hostile to him remained." 

But the spirit of the soldiers had begun to flag. It was now 


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The Anabasis 41 

September, the most trying month in Upper India. The lassitude 
born of long heat disposed the men to listen to the tales of gigantic 
heroes beyond the water, and so the exhortations of their leader 
fell on deaf ears. Yet, as given by Arrian, the words were stirring 
beyond compare. 

"If they had come so far, why should they shrink from adding 
further lands to their Empire of Macedonia ? To brave men there 
was no end to labours except the labours themselves, provided they 
led to glorious achievements. The distance to the Eastern ocean 
was not great, and must be united to their own familiar sea, since 
the Great Waters encircled the earth. If they went back, the races 
they had conquered, not being as yet firm in allegiance, might 
revolt. Oh ! Macedonian and Grecian Allies stand firm ! Glorious 
are the deeds of those who undergo labours Jprho live a life of valour, 
and die, leaving behind them immortal glory." 

But the words only provoked a long silence. And so the flaming 
sword turned back ; but the great fighting heart of its holder 
seems to have been left behind in the old bed of the Beis River, 
where, on its furthest bank, as a memorial of what would have 
happened but for dull humanity, he erected twelve huge altars — 

"equal in height to the loftiest military towers, while exceeding 
them in breadth ; to serve both as a thank-offering to the gods 
who had led him so far as a conqueror, and also to serve as 
monuments of his own labours. And after completing them, he 
offered sacrifices on them " (to the gods to whom he was in the 
habit of sacrificing, doubtless !), " and celebrated a gymnastic and 
equestrian contest." 

A very different festivity this from that upon the banks of the 
Indus ; and we can imagine the great leader coming back across 
the wide stream in his oared galley from the useless, unreal 
ceremonial, with bent head and arms crossed like Napoleon on 
his way to St Helena. 

A picture that fittingly may end the story of Alexander in India ; 
for the record of his retreat is a record of success without aim, 
beyond the discovery of the Great Sea which encircles the whole 

There is something intensely pathetic in this story of his choice 
of the river Hydaspes as his means of retreat, of the infinite care 
for every unit in his force which he showed before that approach 
of the dawn in late October, when, without confusion, without 
disorder, he poured a libation out of a golden goblet from the 
prow of his vessel into the stream, in the name of his gods and the 


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42 The Ancient Age 

three great rivers, the Jhelum, the Chenab, the Indus, to whom he 
trusted; then, doubtless, flinging the cup of gold far into the 
sliding water, ordered the signal for starting seawards to be given 
with the trumpet. So in slow, stately, orderly procession (the 
"noise of the rowing" mingling with "the cries of the captains, 
the shouts of the boatswains," and the choric " songs of farewell 
from the natives who ran along the banks, into a veritable battle 
cry "), he passed down to the Great Ocean. The voyage took a year, 
and he reached the sea coast not very far from where Kurrachee 
now stands. Practically, Alexander was in India proper but nine- 
teen months, and the outward result of his flaming sword had 
passed almost before his premature death at Babylon, a year and 
a half after he left its shores. But, though India remained out- 
wardly as ever " splendidly isolated," forgetful of the West, she 
had felt the Hellenic power ; she feels it still. In every little 
village " Jullunder" (Alexander) is still a name wherewith to con- 
jure, and the village doctor still claims, with pride, to follow the 
Yun&ni (Ionian) system of medicine. 

That the former should be the case is surely small wonder. 
India is ever the slave of vitality, and Alexander was vital to the 
finger-tips. What else could be said of the man who, finding him- 
self checked in an assault on a stronghold, leapt from the bastion 
into the fort, and, supporting himself against the wall, kept the 
enemy at bay with his sword, till one by one his followers, 
maddened by the sight of their beloved leader's danger, followed 
him in time to rescue him, wounded, fainting ? 

But the deed which, of all others, Arrian extols as the most 
noble deed ever performed by Alexander, took place in this wise 
in the desert. His army, parched with thirst, were stumbling on 
blindly, led, as usual in times of distress, by Alexander on foot. 

To him, weary and exhausted, returned scouts, bearing with 
them water collected in a helmet with great difficulty from some 
cleft in a distant rock. 

He took it, thanking the bearers, but immediately poured it 
upon the ground in sight of all. "As a result of this," Arrian 
writes, " the entire army was reinvigorated to so great a degree 
that any one would have imagined that the water so lavished had 
furnished draught for every man." 

Truly, though he left little of sovereignty behind him, Alexander 
left enough pictures imprinted on the soil of Hindustan to furnish 
forth many a gallery. 


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B.C. 321 TO B.C. 184 

We come here to one of the landmarks of Indian History. There 
were seven kings of the Maurya dynasty ; of these, two gained 
for themselves an abiding place in the category of Great World 
Rulers. Their names are Chandra-gupta and As6ka. Grand- 
father and grandson, they made their mark in such curiously 
divergent ways that they stand to this day as examples of War 
and Peace. 

Concerning Chandra-gupta's usurpation of the throne of the 
Nine Nandas, something has already been said. It has also been 
mentioned that while still almost a lad, he met with Alexander 
during the tatter's brief summer among the Punjab Doabs or 
Two-waters, so called because they are the fertile plains which 
lie between the rivers. 

The identification, indeed, of the Sandracottus mentioned by 
Greek writers with Chandra-gupta has been of incalculable value 
in enabling historians to fix other dates. It has been, as it 
were, a secure foundation for a superstructure which has grown, 
and still grows, year by year, and in which every new stone 
discovered is found to fit accurately in its place. 

At the time of this meeting, Chandra-gupta was a nameless 
adventurer, a political exile from Magadha. Who he really was 
seems doubtful. The illegitimate son, it is said, of one of the 
Nine Nandas by a beautiful low-caste woman (from whose name, 
Mura, the titular designation of the dynasty Maurya is taken), 
it is hard to see whence came the young man's undoubted claim 
to be of the Shesh-nag, or Serpent race ; for the Nandas were 
as undoubtedly of low-caste origin themselves. It is possible, 
therefore, that some further history of wrong may have existed 
to make Chandra-gupta claim kinship with the Serpent-Kings 


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44 The Ancient Age 

whom the Nandas had ousted, and hold himself, like any young 
pretender, a rightful heir. 

Be that as it may, he was ambitious, capable, energetic, and 
seized the first opportunity given him of rising to power. 

This came with the news of Alexander's death in B.C. 323. In 
the instant revolt of conquered India which followed, he took 
a prominent part, and found himself, in B.C. 321, with an army 
at his back which, having accomplished its purpose and given 
its leader paramount power in Punjab, was eager to follow his 
fortune elsewhere. 

He led it to Mag&dha, and taking advantage of the Nanda 
king's unpopularity, slew every male member of the family. 

This was the Eastern etiquette on such occasions ; the sparing 
of a brother or an uncle being considered a weakness sure to 
bring speedy repentance in its train. 

Except in as far as the principals were concerned, this revolu- 
tion appears to have been easy and bloodless. At least so we 
gather from the play called the " Signet of the Minister," which, 
though not written till nearly twelve hundred years after the event, 
seems fairly trustworthy in fact. 

In itself it is so studiously realistic, so palpably free from all 
appeal to the imagination, as to form a marked contrast to all 
other dramas of the period. It is most likely, the first purely 
political play that ever was written, for, excluding love passages 
and poetical diction, it deals entirely with the stir of plot and 
counterplot. Chanakya, the wily Brahman — whose advice had 
been Chandra-gupta's best weapon in gaining the throne — realising 
the insecurity of that throne without the hearty support of the 
nobles and, above all, of the late King's Prime Minister, sets 
himself by sheer diplomacy to cut the ground from beneath the 
feet of his master's enemies, and, succeeding, yields up his 
signet of office to the appeased Rakahasa, whose^final aside 
when he accepts it — " Oh ! vile Chinakya — say rather, Wise 
Chinakya, a mine of wisdom inexhaustible h Deep ocean stored 
with excellent rare gems " — shows that he feels himself over- 
mastered by sheer wit. 

But the whole play is well worth reading ; some of it — notably 
the parts in prose— reminding one of Shakspeare. 

The remainder of Chandra-gupta's career, however, was any- 
thing but bloodless. It was scarcely possible that it should be 
so, considering that he began life as a nobody and ended it as 



The Great Mauryas 45 

undisputed Emperor of India from the Bay of Bengal to the 
Arabian Sea. A man of iron nerve, born to conquer, born to 
rule, he went on his way undeviatingly, holding his own despite 
the constant threats of his enemies, despite the danger of 
constant plots ; a danger which made perpetual precaution 
necessary. He never occupied the same bedroom two nights 
in succession ; he never during the daytime slept at the same 

A story is told of Chanakya's wily vigilance for his master. 
He noticed one day a long caravan of ants on the wall of the 
king's room carrying crumbs. This was enough for Chanakya. 
Without an instant's hesitation, the royal pavilion was ordered 
to be set on fire and, as the plaint runs : — 

" The brave men who were concealed 
In the subterrene avenue that led 
To Chandra-gupta's sleeping chamber, so, 
Were all destroyed." 

So far as one can gather, Chandra-gupta's character was not 
a lovable one ; but there can be no question of his power to 
rule men wisely and well. Megasthenes' account of Paliputra 
(which applies more to the reign of Chindra-gupta, during whose 
lifetime the Grecian was ambassador to the court, than to that 
of any other monarch) gives us a marvellous picture of the grip 
which Government kept on the people ; and kept for their good. 
Every department (especially the land revenue and irrigation, 
both of paramount importance in an Indian State) was legislated 
for with the utmost care, and though the whole system of govern- 
ment was based on the personal power of the king, it was far 
from being a mere arbitrary autocracy. His greatest contemporary 
was Seleukos Nikator, who in addition to ceding K&bul, Herat, 
and Kandahar to him, bestowed on him his daughter in marriage. 

Chandra-gfipta died in B.c. 297, having reigned for twenty-four 
years. A short enough time in which to have accomplished so 
much ; for at the day of his death, the only portion of the vast 
continent of India which did not acknowledge his rule was a 
strip of sea coast country about Cuttack, on the Bay of Bengal, 
and that part of the lessening peninsular which lay southward, 
beyond a line drawn through Mangalore and Madras. 

His son Bindu-sara reigned in his stead. Of him we know 
nothing ; not even if he was born of the Grecian princess. Only 
this is on record, that he was extremely fond of figs, and, pre- 


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46 The Ancient Age 

sumably, of learning; for a letter of his to Antiochus, the son 
of Seleukos Nikator, asks naively for the purchase and despatch 
of green figs and a professor ! To which the dignified reply is 
still extant that the figs shall be procured and forwarded, but 
that by Grecian etiquette it was indecorous either to buy or 
sell a professor I 

Bindu-sara had this merit : he handed on the empire which he 
had received intact to his son, after a reign of five and twenty 

So let us pass to Asoka, who, next to Akbar the Great Moghul, 
was the greatest of all Indian kings. Curiously enough, both 
these monarchs, As6ka and Akbar, ruled India through its 
imagination. Both claimed pre-eminence as apostles of a Faith 
in the Unknown ; both appealed to the people on transcendental 

At the time of his fathers death in B.c. 272, Asoka was Viceroy 
of the Western Province. - He had previously ruled in a similar 
position in the Punjab, where his headquarters had been Taxila, 
the Serpent City. Chosen as Crown Prince from amongst 
numerous other sons on account of his ability, he had been given 
this semi-independent control, partly because of his ungovernable 
temper, which earned him the nickname of " The Furious." He 
thus seemed to take after his grandfather, Ch&ndra-gupta, who, 
with all his many virtues, was unquestionably cruel and arrogant. 
But As6ka was not to follow in his ancestor's footsteps. Forty 
years afterward, when his long and peaceful reign, marred by but 
one war, had come to an end, he had earned for himself the well- 
deserved title of " The Loving-minded One, Beloved of the Gods." 
A great change in any man's life ; but nothing to the change 
which his life was to bring into his world. 

In B.c. 260, when he came under the mingled influence of 
Buddhism and Jainism, those creeds were little more than 
sectarian beliefs confined to the India which had given them 
birth. When he died, Buddhism had spread through Asia, and 
had touched both Africa and Europe. As6ka has been called 
the Constantine of Buddhism, but he was more than that. The 
creed which brought him comfort was not, as Christianity was in 
Constantine's time, already a power to be reckoned with, it was 
simply the belief of a few enthusiasts, a few select souls who 
sought almost sorrowfully for some solution of the Great Secret. 

What was the cause which led the Emperor of India, in his 


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The Great Mauryas '47 

luxurious autocracy, to join himself to this Search ? Undoubtedly 
it was remorse ; remorse for the numberless lives needlessly 
sacrificed, the needless suffering entailed on humanity by the 
one war of his reign — the conquest of Kalingar, a maritime 
province on the sea-board of the Bay of Bengal. We have this 
remorse with us still (as we have so much of the innermost soul 
and thoughts and aspirations of As6ka) in the marvellous edicts 
engraven on rock and pillar, which, outlasting Time itself, tell to 
wild waste and deserted ruins their story of one man's struggle 
towards the light. One can almost hear the break, as of tears, 
in the voice that clamours still of " the regret which the Beloved- 
of- the -Gods felt at the murders and the deaths and the 

This regret, then, was the cosmic touch which drove As6ka to 
find comfort in preaching the doctrine of the sanctity of life. Was 
it Jainism (amongst the tenets of which this takes first place) 
which influenced As6ka most, or was it Buddhism? Doctors 
differ ; only this we know, that it was through As6ka , s exertions 
that the latter became the creed of one-third of the human race. 
For the energy of the man was incomparable. His missionaries 
were everywhere. " Let small and great exert themselves, ,, is the 
cry still carven upon stone. " The teaching of religion is the most 
meritorious of acts. . . . There is no gift comparable to the gift 
of religion ... it is in the conquests of religion that the gods 
takes pleasure." So his yellow-robed monks went forth beyond 
the confines of his visible, tangible world, and found their way to 
Egypt, to Greece, to Syria. Their influence is still to be traced 
in other religions, though no record exists of their labours. 

Thus for some thirty years of his life As6ka set himself to alter 
the faith of the world. Why? And how? Because he believed 
with a whole heart, not in ritual or dogma, but in something 
which — hard to be translated — is best rendered by the "Law 
of Piety." And this his edicts explain to be " mercy and charity, 
truth and purity, kindness and goodness." 

A good creed even in these later days. Not to be improved 
upon by conformists or non-conformists ! 

As to how this gospel of good-will was to be preached we learn 
from these edicts also. It is by example, by tolerance, by " gentle- 
ness and moderation in speech." 

" Government by religion, law by religion, progress by religion." 
This was As6ka , s rule, and in it he stands alone as the only, king 


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48 The Ancient Age 

who has subordinated all things to a faith which must only be 
preached in gentleness and moderation. 

The first series of fourteen edicts were cut on rocks in various 
parts of his kingdom, from Attock on the Indus to Cuttack on the 
Eastern Sea, during the twelfth and thirteenth year of As6ka's 
reign. They are, therefore, the first-fruits of his conversion. They 
range over a vast number of subjects, but in each of them there is 
a personal note which justifies the belief that they are verily the 
words of the king, and not the mere drafts of some secretary. 

On the other hand, the Minor Rock edicts were carven in the 
last year of As6ka's reign, and thus gain an additional interest 
from being the farewell of a king to the people whom he had 
striven so hard to lead into the Way of Peace. In one of them 
he says that the truest enjoyment for himself has been making 
men happy by leading them to follow the path of religion, that 
" with this object he has regulated his life " ; yet, though he has 
"promulgated positive rules, it is solely by a change in the 
sentiments of the heart that religion makes true progress." The 
edict ends thus: "So spake Piyadisi, Beloved - of - the - Gods. 
Wherever this edict exists on pillars of stone let it endure to 
remote ages. ,, 

It has endured. The Prakrit language in which it was engraven 
— the spoken language of those times — has passed; but As6ka's 
words are not of Time, they are of Eternity. 

He was a great builder, but few of his buildings remain to this 
day. What their magnificence must have been we may judge 
by the topes at Sanchi, where the eye wearies in following the 
intricacy of ornament, the brain is bewildered in attempting to 
re-fashion in imagination the whole stupendous structure as it 
must have been. But here and there some monolithic sandstone 
pillar still remains, slender, perfect in proportion and execution, 
still bearing in close-carven character As6ka's message to his 
people, to the world. 

Strange, indeed, that the West knows so little of him ! Strangest 
of all that the twentieth century, with its Peace Party and its Anti- 
Vivesectionists, should not put Asdka's name as President in per- 
petuity of their organisations. As6ka, who more than a thousand 
years upheld the equal rights of animals with men to the King's 
care, and openly adjured his successors to follow in his steps, and 
not " to think that a conquest by the sword deserves the name of 


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The Great Mauryas 49 

What manner of man As6ka was outwardly, we have no means 
of knowing ; but those who know of his life can picture him in his 
yellow monk's robe, wearied yet unwearied, pondering over his life- 
long problem. " By what means can I lead my people into the 
path of peace ? " 

Unwearied because of the spirit which inspires the words, " Work 
I must for the public benefit w ; wearied because, " Though I am 
ready at any hour and any place to receive petitions, I am never 
fully satisfied with my despatch of business. ,, 

He died in B.C. 231, leaving his empire intact, and was apparently 
succeeded by a grandson. After him came five kings, all mere 
names. The duration of the dynasty was 1 37 years, and as 89 of 
these belonged to the combined reigns of Chandra-gupta, Bindu- 
sara, and As6ka, the remaining six kings have but eight years 
apiece. Long enough, however, to disintegrate, to dissipate the 
vast empire of As6ka. So much so, that before continuing the 
story of what may be called the central kings of India, it is neces- 
sary to give a side-glance at the outlying provinces where, on 
the removal of As6ka's firm grip on Government, various minor 
dynasties began to rise into a power superior to that of Magadha. 


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B.C. 231 TO A.D. 45 

A GROWING tide as it nears the springs claims more and more of 
the shore at each rise and fall. So it was with the tide which on 
Asoka's death set in around his throne. 

On the north-western frontier, that battle-ground of India, there 
had been peace since Chandra-gupta wrested half Ariana from the 
grip of Seleukos Nikator. But the country itself had remained 
more or less under Hellenist influence. Antiochus, Lemetrios 
Eukratides, such are the names of the passing rulers of whose 
existence we know by the multitude of coins which form almost 
their only history. 

Indeed, as in some museum we gaze with keen yet clouded 
interest at some case of coins labelled " Indo-Greek, Indo- Parthian 
civ: B.C. 250, A.D. 50," we are really gaining at a glance an 
impressionist picture of the strange welter of principalities and 
powers, of sudden diminutions and almost causeless exacerbations 
of influence, which marked the passage of these few centuries upon 
the borderland of India. Here a big gold plaque arrests our eye, 
just as the name of Arsakes or Menander heaves into sight out of 
the confused medley of their more insignificant surroundings ; or 
some quaint half- Aryan, half- Parthian inscription leaves us wonder- 
ing of the why and the wherefore, just as some trivial incident which 
has survived Time in the pages of obscure Greek writers makes us 
pause to wish for more. Strange, ghost-like personalities are those 
which live rudely hammered out on a rough ingot of bronze, or 
silver, or gold, telling their tale truly, — succinctly at times how- 
ever, as when the name and portrait of one prince forms at first 
the obverse of another, then the name alone remains, and finally 
Hermaios disappears, and Kadphises rules supreme. 



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The Outlying Provinces 51 

Who are they all ? Historians peer and ponder ; they add date 
to date, and divide the total by their own desires — for in no branch 
of knowledge is the personal equation more powerful than in 
history — yet still that glance at the case of coins gives to the 
uninitiated the best impression of the period. 

One thing which militates against a concise pigeon-holing of 
such information as we can gather into this brief review of Indian 
history, is the fact that much of it has really nothing to do with 
India at alL The Hindoo Kush range of mountains may be 
taken as the western boundary of Asoka's empire, and the powers 
which encroached on that empire matured their plans, conquered 
and governed such provinces as they gained from beyond that 
boundary. The Bactrians, for instance, who appeared on the banks 
of the Indus, came from the valleys and fertile plains about the 
Oxus. They were a semi - civilised, semi - Hellenised race, who 
boasted the possession of a thousand cities. The Parthians, on 
the other hand, hailed from the wide steppes about the Caspian Sea, 
and were barbarian utterly in the sense of not caring for either 
luxury or culture. Mounted shepherds, mere moss-troopers, they 
were a hardy race, and under the leadership of Arsakes, gripped at 
the crown of Central Asia, and so, inevitably, after a time reached 
out to the fat lands about the Indus ; for the most part leaving the 
princelings who parcelled out the land in possession, as feudatories 
to the foreign power. 

It will be remembered that Seleukos Nikator's attempt to 
recover India for Greece in Chandra-gupta's time failed. Thence- 
forward for a hundred years no other attempt was made. In 
B.C. 206, however, Antiochus the Bactrian made a sweep on 
Kandahar, and Demetrios, his son, in B.C. 190, following his 
example, captured both the Punjab and Sinde. To his own cost, 
however ; for, weakened by these distant wars, he had to yield 
his throne to one Eukratides, and be content for a time with 
the title of " King of the Indians." Not for long, however, for 
Eukratides, being bad to beat, eventually got a grip even on 
these eastern provinces. 

Justin the historian gives a few personal details of this 
Eukratides. How he and three hundred held a fort for five 
months against Demetrios and sixty thousand ; and how he was 
killed in cold blood by his son and colleague, who drove his 
chariot wheels over his father's dead body and refused it burial. 
A poor return for trust, and honour, and devoted love ! It is 


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52 The Ancient Age 

satisfactory to know that the monstrous crime brought its own 
punishment. The dead hero's hold once gone, the successes he 
had gained drifted from the murderer's hands, and thereinafter 
ensued one of those confused welters of conflicting names, powers, 
principalities, which send us back to our outlook on the case of 
coins. Menander's name rises out of the obscure in B.C. 155, 
when he attempted to follow Alexander's footsteps. With a large 
army he marched on India, and crossing the Beds, which had 
defied his predecessor, actually threatened the capital of Paliputra 
itself. At that time, however, the sovereignty of Magadha lay with 
a strong man ; the man who, ousting the degenerate Mauryas, 
had shown himself to have the qualities of both a soldier and 
general. So the Greek king had to beat a hasty retreat, thus 
ending the last attempt of Europe upon India until Vasco de 
Gama's, in a.d. 1502. 

About this time two nomad tribes from the wide Roof-of-the- 
World began a march southward, which, like a flood, was 
eventually to sweep everything before it. The first were the 
Sakas, who, driven from behind by the following tribe, the 
Yuehchi, overwhelmed Bactria, forced their way into the Punjab, 
and penetrated as far south as Mathura, while another section 
founded a Saka dynasty at Kathiawar. They seem to have owned 
allegiance to the Arsakian or Parthian kings of Persia, and bore 
the Persian title of satrap. 

Thus, from the pell-mell of petty princelings and wild, nomadic 
chieftains another name springs to notice. On the coins it runs : 
" Manes basileus basileon? 

This king of kings, as he proudly calls himself, was Manes, the 
first, or nearly the first, of an Indo-Parthian dynasty replacing the 
Indo-Greek and Indo-Bactrian ones. As our eye runs over the 
coins — the only relics of dead kings — it is arrested by the name of 

Now who was Gondophares? The question clamours vainly 
for answer, until a faint recollection of the early fathers brings 
Origen and the Acts of St Thomas back to memory. Yes ! 
Gondophares was the King of India in the days when 

" the twelve Apostles, having divided the countries of the world 
amongst themselves by lot, India fell to the share of Judas, 
surnamed Thomas or the Twin, who. showed unwillingness to 
start on his mission." 


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The Outlying Provinces 53 

Poor St Thomas ! It was a far cry, but Habban, the Indian 
merchant, conveyed his saintly purchase (for the Lord sold the 
unwilling missioner to him in a vision for twenty pieces of 
silver) to King Gundephar in safety. And the king bade the 
apostle, who was an architect, build him a palace in six months. 

" And St Thomas, commanded therefore by the Lord, promised 
to build him the palace within the six months, but spent all the 
monies in almsgiving. So when the time came, he explained that 
he was building the king a palace, npt on earth, but in heaven, not 
made with hands— and multitudes of the people embraced the 
faith." * 

So runs the old Monkish story. Is it true? Who knows! 
Gondophares was a real man, he was a real Indian king, he is 
associated in legend with a Christian mission, and the claim that 
St Thomas was the missioner is not at variance with known facts 
or chronology. With that we must be content. 

And now the coins tell another tale. In their turn the Indo- 
Parthian princes were being driven southward. Their names 
disappear before those of the horde of Turki nomads called the 
Yuehchi, who about the middle of the second century B.C. followed 
the path taken years before by the Sakas, and with two hundred 
thousand bowmen and a million persons of all ages and sexes 
poured themselves into India in search of pastures new. 

So much for the north-western frontier. In the south-west, 
while Greek prince after Greek prince in the north was minting 
coins that were to carry his name idly, ineffectively, through the 
centuries, an aboriginal Dravidian people, driven, no doubt, 
thousands of years before from the fertile fields of the Gangetic 
plain by the steady advance of the Aryan immigrants, were as 
steadily regaining their hold upon Central India. The Andhra 
race was not slow to seize opportunity. The death of Asoka gave 
them the chance of casting off their allegiance to the Maurya 
empire, and they took it. A few years later the King of the 
Andhras, self-styled the "Lord of the West," was able to send 
an army to the eastern sea-coast, and so help Kalinga to revolt 
also. The capital of the Andhra kingdom appears to have been 
an unidentified city called Sri-Kakulum, on the banks of the 
Krishna River ; and the area of Andhra rule gradually increasing, 
crept closer and closer to that of Magadha. The memory of 
Hala, the seventeenth king, lives still by virtue of an anthology of 


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54 The Ancient Age 

love-songs called "The Seven Centuries," which he is said to 
have composed. That, a collection entitled "The Great Story- 
book/ 1 and a Sanskrit Grammar all belong by repute to the reign 
of this king. Finally, the inevitable collision occurred between 
the powerful Andhra dynasty and the degenerate, dissolute 
monarchy at Magadha, which resulted in the annihilation of the 
latter. But before turning to this, the course of the years since 
the Maurya kings disappeared from sheer inanition must be 
traced briefly. It was in B.c. 194 that Push^a-mitra, commander- 
in-chief to the last of the Maury as, lost patience with his weak 
master, assassinated him, and founded the Sunga line. A strong, 
unscrupulous man evidently, he held his own, succeeded in 
stemming the steady tide of disintegration on both the south- 
east and the north-west, and drove back the Greek invasion 
of Menander. 

Still unsatisfied, he revived, in order to strengthen his rule, 
the old traditional Horse-sacrifice, of which we read in the Vedas. 

A quaint old ceremony without doubt. Imagine a grey horse, 
approved by lucky marks, sanctified by priests, turned loose to 
wander at its will. And behind it, following it from field to 
field as it ranges, a complete army ready to claim pasturage 
for it from all and sundry during the space of one whole year. 
Hey presto! by beat of drum the fiat goes forth, as it grazes, 
that proprietors, principalities, powers, must submit or fight. 
So, if an unconquered army returned when the trial was ended, 
he who sent it forth had right to claim suzerainty, to call himself 
Lord- Paramount of all the others. 

This particular " Asva-medha," as it is called, has a peculiar 
significance, in that it proves a determined return from Buddhism 
to Brahmanism on the part of the holders of the Mag&dha throne. 
It is said, indeed, that Push^a-mitra, like so many bloody usurpers, 
was dh/ote, and that his piety included persecution of the new 
faith. One thing seems certain : his ten successors in the Sunga 
dynasty were all more or less in the hands of the Brahmans, who 
managed the state while the titular monarchs amused themselves 
in various discreditable ways, until in B.C. 75, one Vasu-deva, 
Brahman prime minister, lost patience with his hereditary master, 
killed him while engaged in a dishonourable intrigue, and started 
a new dynasty— the Kanva — by mounting the throne himself! 
An idle proceeding, since it was soon to pass from the hands 
of his ineffectual successors to those of an Andhra prince. 


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The Outlying Provinces 55 

But by this time — B.c. 75— another advancing flood— the Yuehchi 
migration — had appeared in the north-west, and for the first two 
centuries or so of our era was to claim equal share with the 
Dravidian kings in the Government of India. 

And what of Vikramaditya ? Vikramadttya the hero, the demi- 
god, the king par excellence of the Indian populace of to-day ? The 
monarch whose victory over some Scythian invaders in B.C. 57 was 
celebrated by the introduction of the Samvat era, which dates from 
that year ? Are all the stories of him that are told about the smoke- 
palled winter fires in the Punjab fields, the hundred and one tales 
of his munificence, his courage and his goodness — are all these 
mere legends? 

So far as this early date is concerned, historians tell us that they 
are. More than five hundred years later one of the Gupta kings 
bore the name, and answers in some way to the description. 

But how came he to be connected with the Samvat era which 
undoubtedly dates from B.C. 57 ? Who can say ! Vikramaditya is 
a terrible loss to India. How can we bear to part with the king 
whose swans sang always : 

" Glory be to Vikramajeet, 
He gave us pearls to eat ! " 

The king whose puppets of stone that bore aloft his throne refused 
to bear the weight of his successor, and wandered out into the wide 
world, each telling a tale of departed glory ! 

No ! Vikramaditya, the beloved of every Indian school-boy for his 
valour, of every little Indian maiden for his gentleness, cannot be 
given up without a protest. 

" The fiction which resembles truth is better than the truth which 
is dissevered from the imagination." Let us hark back to those 
words of wisdom, and search round for some faint foothold for 
blessed belief. 

Let us turn to our case of coins in hope. Stay ! What is this ? 

A nameless one. The date is close to the era we are seeking ; 
the only inscription runs thus, " Soter Megas? 

The " Great Saviour ! " Is not that enough for the imagination ? 
So let us pass by the cogitations of the historian as to what name- 
less king minted the coin, and listen with renewed confidence to 
the tale told by a childish voice of how King Vikramadttya slew the 
foul fiend. 

What does it matter whether he was Vikramaditya or another? 


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56 The Ancient Age 

Foul fiends must always be killed ; as well by a nameless king, pro- 
vided he be a " Great Saviour." 

But one point more requires a few words ere we pass on — the 
extent to which Greek culture influenced India. 

Curiously little. A glance at the Graeco- Buddhist carvings 
which still, in some places on the frontier, are to be had for the 
mere picking up as they lie littered about among the rough-hewn 
stones which once were fort or palace, temple or shrine, shows 
that while India accepted Greek art, she did not oust her own, but 
grafted the new skill on the old stock. 

And though it fires the imagination to think of Greek customs, 
Greek philosophy, Greek valour and intellect making its home for 
hundreds of years among the young green wheat-fields by the bed 
of the Indus, we must not blind our eyes to the fact that the broad 
yellow flood of the river seems to have been an impassable barrier 
to the whole theory of life which was the root-stuff of such custom, 
such philosophy, such valour, such intellect. 

India went on her way, as she has gone always, almost untouched 
by outside influences. Despite the brilliancy of the Macedonian 
cavalry, her own retained its ancient traditions ; despite the 
intellectual keenness of European theorists, India has dreamt — as 
she dreams still — her old dreams. 

There is a little temple near the supposed site of Taxtla. Or 
perhaps it was not a temple at all: it may have been anything 
else. But two or three of the broken pillars have Ionic capitals. 

That is about the extent of Greek influence in India. 


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Digitized by VjOOQIC 

To /ace p. 50. 


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A.D. 45 TO A.D. 225 

The device of a camel and a bull on the reverse and obverse of 
a coin minted by Kadpheses, the first Kushan king in India, is, 
Mr Vincent remarks, a singularly appropriate symbol for the 
conquest of Hindustan by a horde of nomads from Central Asia. 

These wanderers, ever pressed from behind, had come far ; 
they had met and overwhelmed by sheer numbers many hostile 
tribes. But all this was prior to their passage into India proper. 
That took place about the year B.C. 40, when Hermaios, the last 
of the Indo-Greek rulers, gave way to the first Mongolian king. 

It is curious to note this transference of power viewed in the 
light of our care of coins. First, we find the names of both princes 
preserved in the legend, the portrait of the Greek, with his title 
in Greek lettering, still adorning the obverse. After a while the 
legend changes, the Mongolian's name monopolises it, though the 
portrait remains. Again a while, and Hermaios , face disappears 
in favour of the features of the Roman Emperor, Augustus ; a piece 
of flattery due to the growing fame of Rome at its zenith, even in 
the Far East. So, after again a little while, the coin shows nothing 
but that symbol of conquest, the Bactrian Camel dominating the 
Indian Bull ! 

A pause for consideration will show us that this was no ordinary 
conquest. The domination of a highly civilised people such as 
the Indians were undoubtedly, even in those far ages, by a horde 
of upland wanderers, veneered with a culture picked up hastily as 
they journeyed, cannot have come about without much disturbance. 
Yet of this we have no record. The feet of those million or more 
of men, women, children, seem to have overwhelmed even their 
own noise and clamour. Still, we know that the final overthrow 



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58 The Ancient Age 

of the old dynasties in the Punjab and the Indus valley was 
deferred until Kadphises I. had been gathered to his fathers after 
a reign of forty years, and his son, Kadphises II., reigned in his 
stead. As energetic, as ambitious as his father, he was keen 
enough to see the advantages of propitiating that great Western 
emperor of Rome, whose gold was now pouring into India in 
exchange for the latter's silk, gems, dye-stuffs, and spices ; so, after 
conquering the whole of the North-Western Provinces, he sent an 
embassy to Rome in order to acquaint the Emperor Trajan of the 

Probably we have here the first political connection between 
East and West. 

For the rest, was this in truth, not the golden age, but the age 
of gold, for in addition to the Roman Aurei, of which numberless 
specimens are to be found in our Museums, we have examples of 
Oriental gold coins of the same purity and weight, which must 
have been struck by the Kushan kings, as these leaders of the 
wanderers are called. 

On the death of the second Kadphises, one Kanishka came to 
the throne. This is a name which still has a voice in Indian 
tradition, and, beyond India, is still known in the legendary lore 
of Tibet, Mongolia, and China. 

Yet as to who he was, whether he came to the throne by honest 
succession, or even as to the date of his reign, we have next to no 
accurate information. 

Here and there, as we dig at the grave of this dead king, our 
spade and mattock turn up a coin, an inscription, perhaps an 
allusion in later literature ; but the point remains unsettled as to 
whether Kanishka reigned in B.C. 57 or a.d. 120. The evidence 
of coins points to the latter date. There is a certain quaint four- 
pronged symbol to be found in most of the coins struck by 
Kadphises II., which is found also in the innumerable coinage of 
Kanishka ; for, whoever he was, he minted much. Sure sign of 
a long and prosperous reign. 

But there is evidence also which brings home to the enquirer 
the mysterious attraction which lingers alike in the search for 
buried treasure, and the search for buried history. For, close 
beside our traces of Kanishka, of Kadphises, we come upon 
those of that nameless King, the Great Saviour, whose unknown 
personality dominates for the imaginative the two centuries of 
time which holds in their grip of years the birth of Christ A 


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The Bactrian Cameland the Indian Bull 59 

hundred years before that event, a hundred years after, this vision 
of a Great King flits vaguely through the obscure, making us say : 
" It cannot be, and yet — suppose it were?" 

Good old Vikramaditya ! Will the years, as they bring new 
discoveries, bring you back from the realms of myth? 

Meanwhile, "Soter Megas Basileus Basileon" remains free 
of the fetters of fact, and Kanishka, the king, evades them in a 
fashion that is purely tantalising. 

"Strangely open to doubt," is the verdict of the historian on 
almost everything concerning him. 

And yet we know much. 

We know that, like As6ka, he was an ardent Buddhist, though 
of how or why he adopted this faith we are ignorant. We know 
that he ruled as far east as Benares, as far south as the mouths 
of the Indus, as far west and north as the Pamirs. His capital 
was Peshawur; but he £ad subdued the old Indian capital of 
Paliputra. We know, also, that he was a man of artistic tastes, 
a student and an admirer of Nature ; for his favourite holiday 
ground was the valley and hills of Kashmir, where he erected 
many great monuments. At Peshawur itself, besides a monastery 
whose ruins may still be traced outside the Lahore gate of the 
modern town, he raised a great tower to cover some Buddhist 
relics. The spire or pinnacle of this was in thirteen stories, made 
of beautifully carved wood, and, surmounted by an iron finial, rose 
400 feet in height. It is thus described by a Chinese pilgrim 
who visited it in the sixth century. 

But what best deserves remembrance in connection with 
Kanishka's name are the wonderful sculptures which of late years 
have been discovered in such quantities in the Hashtnugar district, 
and elsewhere. They are known, generically, as the Gandhara 
sculptures, as they are supposed to be the output of a distinct 
school which flourished in the district of that name. But in con- 
ception, style, and execution, they assimulate closely to' the 
Graeco-Roman school, which at this period of the world's history 
was nearly cosmopolitan. 

Kanishka is also to be remembered for the Great Buddhist 
Council he convened, in imitation, apparently, of As6ka. The 
story goes that certain commentaries, being approved by this 
Council, were ordered to be engraved on copper, and placed, for 
security, in a stfhupa or tumulus. 


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60 The Ancient Age 

The site of this has not yet been discovered, the copper plates 
remain unread ! 

A find this, perchance, for the coming years ! It is something 
to look forward to, something which may clear up many points 
concerning Kanishka now " strangely open to doubt." 

The history of his successors is, likewise, doubtful. We stand, 
indeed, on the threshold of one of those curious intervals in 
Indian story, when the curtain comes down on the living picture of 
the stage, leaving us to wonder what the next act of the drama 
will be, and when it will recommence. Still more like, perhaps, 
is the position of the spectator to one who, on some mountain top, 
watches the rolling clouds sweep through the valleys below him. 
A stronger breath of wind, a little rift in the hurrying white 
vapour, and a glimpse of the life that goes on and on below the 
mists comes into view for a moment, and is gone the next. 

So we look back towards the beginning of the third century 
after Christ. A glint of sunlight, a passing peep of something 
recognisable, obliterated in an instant by the rolling clouds 
growing more and more obscure as they deepen and darken. 

"Then there were in this land three kings, Hushka, Jushka, and 
Kanishka, who built three towns." 

So runs the Kashmir chronicle. 
' It reads like the beginning of a* fairy tale, but nothing follows 
save a gold coin with the beautifully executed portrait of a striking- 
looking man upon it, a man with deep-set eyes and determination 
marked upon every feature. Beneath it, the legend of King 
Huwushka, or Hushka. 

Another glimpse comes to us of one Visu-deva. Does he in 
truth belong to the Mongolian princes, with their strange uncouth 
names? His is a purely Indian one, and the coins which bear his 
name no longer bear the Bactrian camel. The bull, too, is attendant 
on the Indian God Siva, complete with his noose and trident. 

Had Buddhism, then, gone by the board ? Who can tell. The 
curtain is finally rung down about the year A.D. 230 on the confused 
passing of the Andhra dynasty in the south, the Kush&n dynasty 
in the north, and does not rise again, not even for a moment, until 
a hundred years have passed. 

And yet, before this little book is published, the grave may have 
given up its dead, and out of a few dry bones, a chance coin, a 
half-obliterated inscription, some new personality may have arisen 
to live again through those long, empty years. 


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The Bactrian Camel and the Indian Bull 61 

India is very wide, and she is very secretive. How can it be 
otherwise, when beyond reach of the clash and welter of kings, of 
courts and conquests, the great mass of the people live untouched 
by change, watching their crops, ploughing, sowing, reaping, 
"undisturbed" (as Megasthenes pointed out with wonder), "even 
when battle is raging in their neighbourhood, by any sense of 
danger, since the tillers of the soil are regarded by the Indians as 
a race sacred, inviolable." To the world beyond such lives are a 
secret ; they hold the unknown. 

So from behind the curtain the " Song of the Plough " rises in 
monotonous chant as, in the same dress, using the same implements 
as he uses to-day, the peasant drives his white oxen, and sings : — 

41 Bitter blue sky with no fleck of a cloud ! 

Ho ! brother-ox drive the plough deep. 
Sky-dappled grey like the partridge's breast ! 

Ho ! brother-ox drive the plough straight. 
Merry drops slanting from East to West 1 

Oh ! brother-ox drive home the wain. 
The gods give poor folk rain." 


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A.D. 308 TO A.D. 450 

The curtain rises again upon a wedding ; the wedding of Princess 
Kumari Devi. Eight hundred years before, King Bimbi-sara of the 
Sesu-n&ga dynasty had strengthened his hold on Magadha by 
marrying her ancestress, a princess of that Lichchavi clan which 
for centuries has held strong grip on a vast tract of country spread- 
ing far into the Nepaul hills. 

This kingdom of the Lichchavis had given Bimbi.-sara much 
trouble. It was to check the inroads of the bold hill folk that he 
first built the watch fort of Pataliputra, the modern Patna. Of the 
history of the warlike clan during these long intervening years 
nothing is known; but they must have kept their independence, 
for Princess Kumari Devi (which, by the way, is tautological, since 
Kumari means princess, the whole name therefore standing as 
Princess - Goddess) appears from the obscure as a person . of 
importance, apparently an heiress. Whether she was the reigning 
princess history sayeth not ; but it appears not unlikely that this 
was the case, and that at the time the Lichchavis, instead of being 
checked by, were in possession of, Pataliputra. 

Be that as it may, the Goddess-Princess chose to marry one 
Chindra-gupta, a mere local chief of whose father and grandfather 
only the names have been preserved. Possibly he was good- 
looking ; let us hope so ! From the character of his son, Samudra- 
gupta, it is reasonable to suppose that he rose above the common 
herd of princelings in both intelligence and accomplishments ; 
though, on the other hand, these might have been derived from the 

Scarcely, however ; unless the fairy god-mother had worked hard, 
since the bride's race warrants us in presupposing beauty. Even 
now, says a contemporary witness, "the delicate features and 
brilliantly fair complexion of the Lichchavi women are remarkable." 




The Great Gftpta Empire 63 

Anyhow, the immediate result of what must have been a love 
match was the appearance for the first and last time in Indian 
History of a veritable Prince Consort, who, though calling himself 
king, struck coins which bore the name of his queen as well as his 
own, and whose son claimed succession as the " son of the daughter 
of the Lichchavis." 

Indeed, save as husband and father, Chandra-gupta, the first of 
the Gupta race, has little claim on attention. After the fashion of 
Prince Consorts, he is more or less of a figure-head, though the 
prospects of his dynasty were considered sufficiently dignified and 
secure to permit of his coronation date being made the beginning 
of yet another of the many Indian eras ; one which has, however, 
passed entirely out of use. 

Chandra-gupta seems to have died when still quite a young man, 
leaving his son, apparently quite a boy, to reign in his stead. 

A precocious stripling this Samudra-gupta, who was to fill the 
throne of India as it has seldom been filled for more than half a 
century. Possibly there may have been some interval of Regency 
with the Queen-Mother at its back, but one of the most curious 
features in this fifty-year-long reign, is that we know nothing of it 
from the words of any historian, that we gather no allusion to it 
from any contemporaneous literature. Our knowledge, which year 
by year increases, comes from coins, from inscriptions ; notably 
from a pillar which now stands in the fort at Allahabad. Origin- 
ally incised and set up by Asdka six centuries earlier, Samudra- 
gupta's court panegyrist has used its waste space for a record 
of his master's great deeds. A quaint contrast ; since these 
were chiefly bloody wars, and As6ka everywhere was a peace 

In truth, Samudra-gupta appears to have been an Indian 
Alexander. What he saw he coveted, what he coveted he con- 
quered. From this same pillar we learn that his empire included 
all India as far south as Malabar, as far north as Assam and 
Nepaul. It was thus larger than any since the days of As6ka, 
though the southward sweep of Samudra - gupta's victorious 
armies cannot, in the nature of things, have been much more than 
a raid. A campaign, involving fully 3,000 miles of marching, 
which cannot have occupied less than three years, and the furthest 
limit of which lands one more than 1,200 miles from one's base, 
must be a mere march to victory and a retreat with spoils. 

The record of this march is fairly complete. The courtly 


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The Great Gupta Empire 65 

archaeologists label as belonging to Samudra - gupta's great 

But the coins of this king are somewhat lavish of information. 
Several, which represent him playing on a lyre, remain a proof 
that the court panegyrist was not a wholesale flatterer in counting 
him musician. This, again, gives ground for belief that he was 
also, as is claimed for him, a poet. That he took delight in 
patronising art of all kinds is proved beyond doubt by the great 
number of eminent men whose works date from the reign of 
Samudra-gupta, and his son Chandra-gupta II., who, on his 
coronation, took the name of Vikramaditya ; the latter being, of 
course, the one associated in the mind of every Hindu of to-day 
with the splendid renaissance of national learning and art, on 
which they love to dwell. To them Vikramaditya is synonymous 
with the zenith of Hindu glory ; but it is open to doubt whether 
the hero's father may not lay claim to a lion's share of the record 
of great achievements. We know of a certainty that he was 
sufficiently notable as musician to warrant his coins being stamped 
with majesty in that rdle; his poet-laureate tells us of keen intel- 
lect, love of study, and skill in argument. Is not this sufficient to 
make us at any rate date the beginning of the Renaissance from 
the days of Samudra-gupta ? 

Be that as it may, it is abundantly clear that in him we are 
dealing with another of those rare kings, who are kings indeed 
by right of their personal supremacy. 

India is curiously fruitful in them, and, so far as we have come 
in Indian history, their individualities stand forth all the stronger 
in contrast with the mists and shadows which surround them. 
Bhishma, Chandra-gupta, As6ka, Kanishka, Samudra-gupta— we 
gauge our admiring interest by our desire to know what manner 
of men these were in feature and form. But Fate, for the most 
part, denies us even the scant suggestion of a rude coin. She 
does so here. Whether Samudra inherited his mother's beauty 
is for the present an unanswerable question. We do not know 
even the year of his passing, still less the manner of it : the 
story goes on without a pause to Chandra - gupta - Vikramaditya, 
his son, whose fame, until lately, quite overwhelmed all memory 
of his father ; that father who conquered India, who allied him- 
self with foreign powers, who made the subsequent achievements 
of his son possible. 

The question which besets us now is the extent to which 



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66 The Ancient Age 

Chandra - gupta - Vikramadftya's fame is really his own ; how 
much of it is due to the fact that we possess of his reign and 
administration an almost unique record in the account given of 
his travels and sojourn in India by the Buddhist pilgrim from 
China, Fa-Hien? This gives us information which fails us in the 
reigns of other kings. How much, again, of this Vikramaditya's 
fame belongs by right to that other mythical Vikramaditya of 
before- Christ days ? That nameless king who flits like a Will-o'- 
the-Wisp through the mists of early Indian history ? 

How much, again, is rightfully due to his father — that striking 
personality which historians have forgotten, but which now comes 
surging through the shadows, a veritable man indeed ? 

Who can, say ? All we know is that the Gupta dynasty was a 
mighty one ; that it still serves the modern Hindu as a model of 
good government, just as the Mahomedan still points with pride 
to Akbar's rule. 

What, then, were the salient points of this beloved control? 
Judging by Fa - Hien's account they may be summed up in 
personal liberty. The subject was left largely to follow his own 
intentions, and the criminal law was singularly lenient. This was 
rendered possible by the wide acceptation amongst the masses of 
Buddha's gospel of good- will ; for although Brahmanical Hinduism 
had ousted Buddhist dogma, it had scarcely touched its ethics. 
Capital punishment was unknown ; there was no need for an eye 
for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. "Throughout the country," we 
read, " no one kills any living thing." 

An easy kingdom in good sooth to rule ! According to our 
traveller, the people seem to have vied with each other in virtue. 
All sorts of charitable institutions existed, and the description of 
a free hospital, endowed by benevolence, is worth quoting : — 

" Hither come all poor or helpless patients suffering from every 
sort of infirmity. They are well taken care of, and a doctor attends 
to them, food and medicine being given according to their wants. 
Thus they are made quite comfortable, and when they are well 
they may go away." 

Thus, once more, the East saw light sooner than the West ; for 
the first hospital in Europe only struggled into existence more 
than five hundred years after this one at Magadha. 

But the chief glory of the Gupta empire was its patronage of the 
arts and sciences. Every pundit in India knows the verse which 
names the "nine gems of Vikramaditya's court"; those learned 


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The Great Gfipta Empire 67 

men amongst whom Kalidasa, the author of "Sakuntala" (so far 
as fame goes, the Shakspeare of India), stood foremost. Poets, 
astronomers, grammarians, physicians, helped to make up the 
nawa-ratani) as it is called, and the extraordinary literary activity 
of the century and a quarter (from a.d. 330 to 455), during which 
long period Samudra, Chandra, and his son, Kumira, reigned, is 
most remarkable. The revival of Sanskrit, the sacred language of 
the Brahmans, points to an upheaval of Hindu religious thought, 
and so does the almost endless sacred literature, which, still 
surviving, is referred to the golden age of the Guptas. The 
Puranas in their present form, the metrical version of the Code 
of Manu, some of the Dharm-shastras, and, in fact, most of the 
classical Sanskrit literature, belong to this period. 

Architecture was also revolutionised. As Buddhism slipped 
from the grip of the people under pressure from the ever-growing 
power of the Brahmans, the very forms of its sacred buildings 
gave way to something which, more ornate, less self-evident, served 
to reflect the new and elaborate pretensions of the priesthood. 
Mr Cunningham gives us somewhere the seven characteristics of 
the Gupta style of architecture ; but it is more easily summed up 
for the average beholder in the words "cucumber and gourd." 
These names serve well to recall the tall, curved vimanas^ or towers, 
exactly like two-thirds of a cucumber stuck in the ground, and sur- 
mounted by a flat, gourd-like " Amalika," so called because of its 
resemblance to the fruit of that name. 

That such buildings are interesting may be conceded, but that 
any one can call the collection of pickle-bottles (for that is practi- 
cally the effect of them) at — let us say — Bhuvan-eshwaae beautiful, 
passes comprehension. 

Exquisite they are in detail, perfect in the design and execution 
of their ornamentation, but the form of these temples leaves much 
to be desired. The flat blob at the top seems to crush down the 
vague aspirings of the cucumber, which, even if unstopped, must 
ere long have ended in an earthward curve again. 

To return to history. 

Chandra-gupta-Vikramaditya died in a.d. 413. His greatest 
military achievement was the overthrow of the Sika dynasty in 
Kathiawar, and the annexation of Maiwa to the already enormous 
empire left him by his father. In other ways we have large choice 
of prowess. All the tales which linger to this day on the lips of 
India concerning Rajah Bikra- or Vikra-majit are at our disposal. 


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68 The Ancient Age 

Of his son Kumara we at present know little, save that he reigned 
successfully for not less than forty years, keeping his kingdom 
intact, remaining true to its traditions. 

Perhaps some day his fame also will rise from its grave, and 
coin or inscription may prove him true unit of the Great Trio of 
Gupta emperors. This much we may guess : he was his grand- 
mother's darling, for he bears her name in masculine dress. 


by Google 


A.D. 45O TO A.D. 648 

The name Huns has quite a familiar sound. We think of Attila ; 
we remember the 350 pounds weight of gold which Theodosius of 
Byzantium paid as an annual tribute to the victorious horde which 
swept into Europe about the middle of the fifth century ; finally, we 
hark back to Gibbon's description of this race of reckless reiving 
riders ; for the Huns seem to have been born in the saddle and 
never to have lived out of it. This is what he says : — 

" They were distinguished from the rest of the human species by 
their broad shoulders, flat noses and small black eyes, deeply buried 
in the head ; and, as they were almost destitute of beards, they 
never enjoyed either the manly graces of youth or the venerable 
aspect of age." (En passant, we can but wonder what our poor 
Gibbon would have said to the shaven chin of to-day !) " A 
fabulous origin was assigned worthy of their form and manners — 
that the witches of Scythia, who for their foul and deadly practices 
had been driven from society, had united in the desert with infernal 
spirits, and that the Huns were the offspring of this execrable 

Again, poor Huns ! We do not need such legend to know that 
they were utterly barbarian ; that they rode like the devil, fought 
with bone-tipped javelins, clothed themselves in skins, and ate 
herbs and half-raw meat which they had first made tender by using 
it as their saddle ! It is a sufficiently black indictment, and, though 
it applies only to the rolling swarm of savages which, on leaving 
that hive of humanity, the wide Siberian Steppe, turned westward, 
we have no reason to suppose that the swarm which turned eastward 
differed much from the type. It is true they are called the White 
Huns, but that is most likely because among the dark races of 
Hindustan, the yellow Mongolian complexion showed fair. 



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Jto The Ancient Age 

India had been overrun many times before, but it needs small 
consideration to see that this invasion must have been the worst, 
must have brought with it a perfect horror of havoc. Far more 
so than the Hun invasion in Europe. There the ultimate savage 
met, for the most part, with Goths and Visigoths. In India they 
stood between a Brahman and his salvation, between culture 
and comfort. For India was in these days far more civilised than 
Europe ; its people were refined, bound hand and foot by ritual, 
curiously conventional in custom. 

The long ages which had passed since the Vedic times had 
made religion more complex, had multiplied ceremonial to such 
an extent that the performance of the simplest duty was hedged 
about by the danger of fateful commissions, and still more fateful 
omissions. The revival of Hinduism during the paling days of 
the GApta empire had vastly increased the power of the Brahman. 
In brief, Puranic Hinduism — that is, religion based on the Puranas, 
as distinct from the Vedas — with all its hair-splitting, its overlay 
of ritual by ritual, was at its zenith. From birth to death a man 
— even the meanest man — was in the grip of innumerable petty 

The very gods he worshipped had changed. The elemental 
deities of the Rig- Veda — the Winds, the Fire, the Sun, the Dawn — 
behind which lay ever (half recognised, wholly mysterious) the 
Unconditioned, the Absolute, were lost ; crowded out, as it were, 
by the three hundred and thirty millions of Puranic godlings, 
which rumour says had replaced the thirty-and-three of the Vedas. 
And beset by an Athanasian furore for faith, the Pur&nas had 
defined the undefinable. The doctrine of a Trinity seems about 
this era of the world's history to have been more than usually 
in the air, and we find it here, hard and fast, crystallised 

Brahma the Creator, Siva the destroying Spirit, Vishu or Krishn 
the Saviour, the Man-God, kind to the weaknesses of humanity. 
The three hundred and thirty millions of little gods were contained 
in the Three ; they were emanations, attributes, as such imaged 
and worshipped. A great change this from the singing of a 
hymn to Agni the Fire-God, as the victim's flesh shrivelled in 
the flame, and the cooling of the ashes with a libation of soma 

And the worshipping of images brought with it a veneration 
for temples, a reverence for a paid priesthood, with its inevitable 


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The White Huns and Good King Harsha 71 

corollary of cult and custom and ceremonial. This complexity 
of religion naturally showed itself in the character of the people. 
As Mr Dutt writes : — 

" Pompous celebrations and gorgeous decorations arrested the 
imagination and fostered the superstitions of the populace ; 
poetry, arts, architecture, sculpture, and music lent their aid, 
and within a few centuries the nation's wealth was lavished on 
these gorgeous edifices and ceremonials which were the outward 
manifestations of the people's unlimited devotion and faith. 
Pilgrimages, which were rare or unknown in very ancient times, 
were organised on a stupendous scale ; gifts in land and money 
poured in for the support of temples, and religion gradually trans- 
formed itself to a blind veneration of images and their custodians. 
The great towns of India were crowded with temples, and new 
gods and new idols found sanctuaries in stone edifices and in 
the hearts of ignorant worshippers." 

Add to this the testimony of the literature of the period. The 
dramas of Kalidasa, beautiful as they are, concern themselves 
entirely with Love. The very descriptions of nature have reference 

to it, as when we read : — 

11 The oleander bud 
Shows like the painted fingers of the fair, 
Red tinted on the tip and edged with ebony." 

His very reflections also are tinged with the same soft note of 
underlying passion : — 

" Not seldom in our hours of ease, 
When thought is still, the sight of some fair form 
Or mournful fall of music breathing low 
Will stir strange fancies thrilling all the soul 
With a mysterious sadness." 

And, leaving poetry alone, such knowledge as we have of social 
life in these days points to a certain effeminacy. In fact, there 
is evidence that woman played a larger part in society than she 
does in the India of to-day. The perennial joke against learned 
ladies, indeed, appears in the drama of the "Toy Cart," where 
the comic man says he always laughs when he " hears a woman 
read Sanskrit, or a man sing a song ! " Then the heroine of this 
drama is frankly a courtesan, an Indian Aspasia, who received 
her lovers in a public court furnished with books, pictures, 
gambling- tables, etc., and who was 

" Of courteous manners and unrivalled beauty, 
The pride of all UjjaiD." 


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72 The Ancient Age 

Such, then, were the people who "felt, dreaded, and magnified" 
(as Gibbon says of the Goths — a far less civilised nation — in like 
predicament) " the numbers, the strength, the rapid motions and 
implacable cruelty of the Huns; who beheld their fields and 
villages consumed with flames and deluged with indiscriminate 

Perhaps it is as well, therefore, that history is for the most 
part silent concerning the horror and the havoc of the century 
or so of time during which the Huns ravaged India. We hear 
only of the greater tragedies, of Toramava the Tyrant, and his 
son Mihiragula, who out-Heroded his father in implacable cruelty 
towards the cultured, caste-bound Hindus, to whom all things were 
sacred. Of him it is written that his favourite amusement in 
Kashmir was watching elephants goaded into impassable, pre- 
cipitous hill-paths, so that he might laugh like a fiend if they 
slipped and fell ; fell with a wild shriek of terror and anger, to 
be dashed to pieces thousands of feet below. An unpleasing 
picture this ! One cannot wonder at the criticism passed on his 
death, when "the earth shook, thick darkness reigned, and a 
mighty tempest raged." It was succinct, bald, but forcible: 
"He has now fallen into the lowest hell, where he shall pass 
endless ages." 

After his death, which must have occurred about the year 
A.D. 540, the clouds gather darkly, and we are permitted few 
peeps as to what was going on behind them. Certain it is that 
no trace of a paramount power is to be found in the scant records 
of the last half of the sixth century. 

The beginning of the seventh, however, finds the historian in 
very different case. He has first and foremost the detailed 
account of Hiuen T'sang's travels with which to deal, and this 
is supplemented by the " Harsha-charita? or " Deeds of Harsha," 
written by- a learned Brahman who lived at the court of the 
good king. That this latter book partakes more of the character 
of a historical romance than a steady, straightforward chronicle 
of events is true ; but even so, the information at disposal is fuller 
and more precise than that which has been forthcoming hitherto, 
excepting, perhaps, in regard to the great Maurya kings. 

Harsha, then, was younger son of a Rajah of Thaneswar, in 
the Punjab. 

His father dying in A.D. 606, his elder brother ascended the 
throne, but was almost immediately most treacherously assassi- 


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The White Huns and Good King Harsha 73 

nated in conference by the King of Bengal; the conference 
apparently being for the purpose of arbitrating between the young 
Rajah of ThanSswar and the King of Malwa, who had murdered 
the former's brother-in-law for the sake of possessing his wife, and 
was keeping the ThanSswar princess a prisoner, with "iron fetters 
kissing her feet. ,, 

The assassinated king being too young to have a son, his 
brother Harsha was invited to take the throne. For some 
unknown reason he hesitated, and his formal coronation did 
not take place until nearly six years after he had assumed the 
actual responsibilities of kingship. 

The story of the recovery of his widowed sister from the hands 
of her abductor is full of incident and romance. The rescue was 
but just in time, for the Princess RaJ-yasri — a most attractive 
and learned young lady, and well versed in the Buddhistic schools, 
apparently — was about to commit suttee amid the pathless forests, 
whither she had fled to escape her persecutor, when her brother, 
led to her retreat by the aboriginal chieftains, arrived upon the 
scene. The hurry was so great, that in it the assassin-lover 
appears to have escaped. 

It will be observed by this that the family of Harsha was of 
the Buddhist faith. How, or why, we know not. The very name 
of his kingdom, Than-£swar {S'tkaneswara^ or, The Place of God), 
is purely Hindu ; nevertheless, this, the last great King of Hindu 
India, professed the religion of Gautama. 

In fact, in many ways his reign is a poor imitation of that of 
As6ka. He did not, however, follow that king's example as a peace 
prophet, for he spent nearly thirty-six years out of his forty- 
two in bloody warfare. And in all his long career of aggression 
he met with but one check. He was unable to push his forces 
through the narrow defiles of the Deccan passes, and had to 
confine himself to being Lord Paramount of the North. So his 
empire, though extensive, never touched that of Asoka ; in truth, 
he did not touch that monarch in any way. Nevertheless, his 
rule was excellent, and our Chinese pilgrim is loud in praise of 
it. Harsha did not trust to officialdom ; personal supervision 
was his theory of government, and he was constantly on the 
move inspecting, punishing, rewarding. His camp must have 
been quaint, for in those days tents were unknown, and the 
"King's Palace" was built at each halting-place of boughs and 
reeds, and solemnly burnt after it had been used. 


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?4 The Ancient Age 

Like all these Eastern kings whose personalities have survived 
the years, he appears to have been somewhat of a genius. Besides 
being a most expert penman and draughtsmen,^ wrote various 
learned books, and in his salad days produced several plays which 
still remain part of the literature of India. One, " The Necklace/* 
is quite the liveliest of all Indian plays, and with appropriate songs 
and dances must have been rather like a Savoy comic opera. 
There is a legend that Harsha spent so much money on poets, 
actors, dancers and artists of all descriptions, that he had eventu- 
ally to sell the gold and silver ornaments of the Hindu temples in 
order to pay for his pleasures ; but this is pure legend. Following 
the example of As6ka, he established rest-houses for travellers, 
hospitals for the sick, magistrates for the regulation of morals ; yet 
in all this, somehow, the sense of pose is never absent. As6ka's 
voice is still to-day a cri du c<sur\ Harsha's is— Jin de sikcle. 

He could not help it. The curious religious eclecticism of the 
period favoured it. His family showed keenly the general 
tendency to self-consciousness, and it was written of his father: 

" He offered daily to the Sun a bunch of red lotuses set in a pure 
vessel of ruby, and tinged, like his own heart, with the same hue." 

Could Oscar Wilde have done more ? Strange, indeed, how the 
cycles of culture come round and round. 

It was in his later years that King. Harsha became a pronounced 
Buddhist. This was largely owing to the preachings and teach- 
ings of Hiuen T'sang, in honour of whom a solemn assemblage 
was held at Kanauj in the fresh sprr j-time of the year a.d. 644. 
The scene is admirably given in Hiuen T'sang's Record, and is 
well worth a reading. We can imagine the king carrying in 
person the canopy upheld over the golden statuette of Buddha ; 
we can see him "moving along, scattering golden blossoms, 
pearls and other rare gems." We catch a glimpse of the flaming 
monastery accidentally catching fire, to be extinguished by the 
mere sight of the good Harsha. The rush of the mad Hindu 
fanatic to slay this "favourer of Buddhists" comes as a startling 
incident, to be followed by the immediate exile of five hundred 
Brahmans for high treason. 

Then we learn of the journey to Prag (Allahabad), where every 
five years Harsha, in accordance with ancient custom, had held a 
distribution of alms. 1 

1 This assemblage, or fair, still exists, under the name of the Magh-mela. 


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Ttie White Huns and Good King Marsha ^$ 

The description of this is even more entrancing, and we can 
take part in all the ceremonials of the seventy-five days during 
which Buddha, the Sun, and Siva were apparently worshipped 
indiscriminately. The proceedings were opened by a magnificent 
procession of feudatory princes, and ended with a forty-days' 
distribution of alms to all and sundry. 

After this, Hiuen T'sang writes, 

" the royal accumulation of five years was exhausted. Except the 
horses, elephants and military accoutrements . . . nothing re- 
mained. . . . The king gave away his gems and goods, his clothing 
and neck-laces, ear-rings, bracelets, chaplets, neck jewels, and 
bright head jewel ; all these he freely gave away without stint." 

Was it a real gifting, we wonder, or, after duly worshipping in 
a borrowed second-hand suit, did Harsha return to his palace to 
find his wardrobe much the same as ever ? 

The hint of unreality in all things provokes the question. 

King Harsha died in a.d. 6^8, shortly after his beloved Chinese 
pilgrim had departed for his native land. Once again it has to 
be written that the "withdrawal of the strong arm plunged the 
country into disorder." 

■^Arjuna, his minister, seized the throne, but drew down on 
himself the wrath of China, and after a brief interval was carried 
thither as a prisoner. 

Meanwhile, no one appeared to take the reins. In truth, 
degeneration had already set in. The people who had posed so 
long as a nation of culture^ of refinement, who had spent their 
lives in applauding poetasters, who had laughed when the court 
wit said the commander-in-chiefs nose was as long as the king's 
pedigree, who had been ready to worship any god if so be the 
ceremonial pleased their aesthetic sense/'who had given free pass 
to their emotions in all ways, such people were not ready for 
action. And so once for all the clouds cover Hindu supremacy. 

The next four hundred years are the Dark Ages of Indian 
history. Even the impressionist outlook of our case of coins is 
denied us. A thousand names jostle each other in common- 
place confusion. In the chaos of conflicting claims, any attempt 
at classification is hopeless. 


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A.D. 70O TO A.D. IOOI 

These, as has been said, are the Dark Ages of Hindustan. She 

has ever been the prey of personality, the willing victim of vitality. 

From the year B.C. 620, when her real history begins, until now, 

that history has been that of individuals who have either risen 

; from her ranks, or appeared on her horizon ; who have dominated 

1 .her imagination, and left her too often at their death confused, 

1 /helpless, to fall back into the bewildering anarchy of petty 

A ( princedoms. 

The light shines clearly for a few years, reflected by one man's 
; keen sword, or keener eyes ; and then the strong arm falls, the 
1 vision fails, and India sinks back into the Great Apathy concerning 
M things sublunary which is ever her most salient chftr arterjstir. 

And these three hundred years give us no personality striking 
enough to be seen through the mist which settled down like a 
pall over India after the death of Harsha. This death, says 
Mr Vincent Smith, " loosened the bonds which restrained the dis- 
ruptive forces always ready to operate in India, and allowed them 
Ito produce their normal result : a medley of petty states with ever- 
varying boundaries, and engaged in unceasing internecine war." 
No new thing this in the past history of India ; it will be no 
new thing in the future, for Hindustan will always need some 
» strong, centralising, magnetic force to hold together its innumer- 
able atoms. 

It is true that in literature some few names hover doubtfully 
about the eighth century, and that round the outskirts of India, 
in Kashmir, Nepaul, Madras, Ceylon, we hear every now and 
again of events which arrest the attention for a moment. The 
reassertion of Chinese influence along the northern borderland, 
though brief, was noteworthy, and in Kashmir the names of 



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Chaos 77 

several kings and one queen stand out from the general posse. 
Amongst them that of Laladitya, who built the famous Temple f\ 
of the Sun at Martand, not far from Bawun in Kashmir. A 
magnificent ruin this, standing out sharply against both the rising 
in the east and the setting in the west ; set high on one of those 
lofty karSwas, or tablelands, which are so marked a characteristic 
of Kashmir. Fringing the mighty mountains, they stretch like 
promontories into the rice and saffron fields, still showing by their 
precipitous sides the force of the mighty flood which at some time 
must have swept through the valley, lowering its levels, and leaving 
these landmarks to tell of its passage. 

Then we have two names — rather painfully reminiscent of comic 
opera — Avanti-varman and Sankara-varman, good and bad boys * 

of Kashmir hTstofyT" The former remembered for his beneficent , ~ 
schemes, his kindly patronage ; the latter for his ingenuity in 
squeezing the last drop of blood-tax from his oppressed subjects, 
and his aptitude in stealing temple treasures. 

Finally, and alas ! we have a queen called Didda. The less said st 
of her the better. It is sufficient to record that she was the 
Messalina, the Lucrezia Borgia of Kashmir for close on half a 

A long time this ! Could she by chance have had the secret 
of youth like Ninon d'Enclos ? • C ' ' 

Her death, however, brings us to a.d. 1003, and in a.d. iooi . ' / 
Mahmud, so-called of Ghuzni, was to begin his first raid into *C^ > 
India, and so bring a new factor— Islamism— to its welter of creeds **~~> *** 
and castes. *"-"- % / " ~\\Ji, 

Here, therefore, ends the Hindu period of Indian history. ^^ ** 
There follows on it the Mahomedan age from A.D. 1001 to 1858, i^ f % J>*. 
when the English formally took over the entire charge of '***' 


Now as in this Mahomedan age the new faith of the conquerors 
had much to say to the general trend of events, it may be as well 
to occupy this empty chapter by a brief exposition of what that 
faith is, and how it inspired those constant invasions of India 
which make the next few hundred years the record of an almost 
continuous campaign. Before doing this, however, let us take 
still briefer stock of this past Hindu age. 
> It was an age of growth, of renaissance, of decadence. 

The natural vigour of the Vedas grew to the more complex, 
more artificial energy of the Epics, and out of this arose strangely 


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[3 A-\T^ 

78 The Ancient Age 

/\ the quietism of the Buddhist. War and Peace, Glory and Dis- 
honour, Riches and Poverty, all faded away to nothingness before 
/ the hope of Nirvana — of escape from Desire. Thus As6ka - 
l/\ becomes the dominating figure, and even after his death the 
> names of Kanfshka and Hushka and Harsha faintly echo his 

But they failed to keep it alive. The Brahmans, rising to power, 
thrust out alike the simplicity of the Vedas and the nescience of 
/\ Buddha. So came the Renaissance. 

An epoch marked, as such epochs generally are, by a curious 
cult of the emotions in all things. The Indians of the Gupta 
empire were emphatically fin de stick, so they did not survive. 
King Harsha, Mithraist, Buddhist, Hindu, worshipping his 
several deities by giving in alms even "his bright head-jewel," 
pictures the time. A time when the court panegyrist Bana, 
writing of his dying master, can so juggle with words as to 
describe his agony thus : — 

" Helplessness had taken him in hand ; pain had made him 
its province, wasting its domain, lassitude its lair . . . broken in 
utterance, unhinged in mind, tortured in body, waning in life, 
babbling in speech, ceaseless in sighs." 

Of a truth, there is no wonder that the Indian world also had 
1 I come to " the tip of death's tongue," to " the portal of the Long 
/ - Sleep." 

It was becoming neurotic, hyper-aestheticised. It needed a 
\ and a rude awakening. 

Mahomedanism was to give it the latter, and the founder of ^ 
\ this faith had been born at Mecca on the 10th November a.d. 57a \ "7 l 

1 By a curious coincidence, the date on which he began his teaching r 

1 / and that of King Harsha's coronation are very nearly synchronous.^/^ 
I ' ' Mahomed was an Arab, but was in every way unlike his race. 
A posthumous son, he had " inherited from his mother a delicate 
\ and extremely impressionable constitution, and an exaggerated 
I sensibility." He was melancholy, silent, fond of desert places, 
solitude, and dreamy meditations. 

Nature appealed to him. The sight of the setting sun inspired 
him with vague restlessness, and he would weep and sob like 
a child at slight provocation. 

His religious excitability was of the most acute character,. and 
passed at times into attacks of epilepsy. w - ^ 


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Chaos 79 

A true revivalist this ! Small wonder if, having in his mountain 
solitude seen, orlnought he had seen, a vision of the Great Unity \ 
.- which men call God, he should have claimed inspiration, and i 
claimed it militantly. The time was ripe for a reviva l. Religion 
was being discussed on all sides, and Mahomed having, it is said, 
gained nine converts by his first vision, set to work to gain more. / 
Ere he died all A rabia jrankly followed his teaching. This, how- I /\ 
ever, was not the result of what A s6ka advocated as the only 
legitimate method of a mission, for '^example, tolerance, gentle- / 
ness and moderation in speech " have never found much place ' 
in Mahomedan proselytising ; the rather fire and swOrd, a sharp i 
blade held to the throat that hastily gabbles the Kalma or / 
Mahomedan creed. ■> 

And yet it is a faith which has held, which still holds, its own, 
and which was to be responsible for much in the future history 
of India. Like all faiths, however, it has gone far beyond its 
founder, and it is doubtful for how much of the Mahomedanism . 
of to - day the seer - prnphqt of A.n. 610 is really responsible. of - 
Within six years of his death his successors had carried their -— - 
version of the dreamer's thoughts to Syria and Egypt. Ere / t /, 
J , * Harsha died the whole of Persia as far east as Herat was added O . J" 

Ito the Arab empire. Thence in the slow centuries it drifted 
towards India ; for the lust of personal and temporal power J 
amongst the leaders checked its progress much. The great 
dispute as to the rightful succession to the Prophet provoked ^ 

almost instant schism ; while the assassination of Ali, the fourth & < \ 
kali/a — he was son-in-law of the Prophet's — and the subsequent/ 
murders of his two sons Hussan and Hussain, was productive ' i^ y f 
of a strife which lasts to the present day between the rival sects v 

of Shiahs and Sunnis. .. a \ 

So, while the Dark Age of India drifted on, the Awakener ' -7 
was creeping closer TcTthe border, and in a.d. 976 one Sabaktagin, - q ' 
a Turkish slave who had married the Governor of Khorassan's r ( ^ 
daughter, began the invasion by sweeping the western bank of ~*~~ 
the Indus, and retiring laden with loot. 


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To fact > A 


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A.D. IOOI TO A.D. I200 

PART I W ^ *Sr/ $i 

FOR close on these two hundred years the northern plains of . 
India were a battle-field. Winter after winter, as the sun's power ' 
declined, and the curious second spring began of cold-weather 
crops and fruits and flowers, which to this day make the Punjab 
seasons hover between the tropics and the temperates, there 
debauched from the snow-clad hills, all along the western and 
north-western frontier of India, long files of wild-looking horse- { , 
men, followed by camels, by foot soldiers ; and somewhere, in ■ „ 
their midst always, was the green flag of the Prophet, with its j ' 
over-riding, overbearing crescent, telling its tale of rising power : ; 
the crescent which is an apt symbol of a fighting faith. 

What tempted these hardy northern folk into the wide plains of 
India? Was it, indeed, zeal for Sgujs? Hardly. By the way, as *?" 
a sort of salve to conscience, such zeal was good to break an idol ,* 

or two, or an idolater's head ; but au fond, the money bags out- * % 
weighed all other reasons for these recurring raids. *•>**' 

For during those three centuries of Chaos, during the dark ages 
of degeneracy, India had grown rich — inordinately rich. Overlaid, 
ancl yet again overlaid with finikin fanciful ornamentations, almost 
incoherent in their diffuse discursive details, the temples were 
perfect mines of wealth ; in some cases of useless, buried treasure, ■ 
since in the gradual downfall of the Hindu nation at large, the I ^ 
privileged class of Brahmans had closed their grip even on the ' 

81 -"it j 


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82 The Middle Age 

power of the princes. The only thing which remained com- 
/ paratively untouched, as in India it has ever remained untouched, 
. \ being the slow-moving mass of the peasantry, who, willing bonds- 
'J men to Mother Earth, took no heed of anything save famine. 

The first swoop for plunder was made by one Mahmud, King of 

K / Ghuzni, in November A.D. iooi. He must have entered India by 

I the Khyber Pass, for on the 27th of that month, near Peshawar, 

\ U v ' he met and defeated King Jaipal of Lah6re. One can imagine the 

contest. The long-nosed, long-curled, long-bearded Ghuznivites, 

rough and ready in their skin-coats, their burly bosoms aflame 

f . with covetousness for creed and gold, their guttural throats re- 

y 7.f sounding with the war-cry of Islim: "Kill! Kill! For the Faith 1" 

v r\ ! And on the other side, the clean-shaven, oiled, scented Hindus lax 

with long centuries of ease, yet still full of pride, full of high 

[/ ' courage. 

** It was a foregone conclusion, despite the mailed elephants and 
the elaborate old War Office dispositions and compositions of 
corps and cadre which had come down, we may be sure, from 
Ch&ndra-gupta's days. For once the East gets hold of a thing, 
it sticks to it. 
J ^ It was new blood against old — a new faith against one so ancient 
1 that it had almost been forgotten. Almost, not quite, as the story 
shows of what Jaipal did, when the Mahomedan conqueror, 
Qs driven back to the cool by the approach of a new summer, care- 
\J " lessly gave the royal prisoner — whom he had dragged about with 
J *v him in his victorious raid — a contemptuous freedom. But ere this 
time came, Mahmud of Ghuzni had to set one of his many marks — 
he invaded India no less than twelve times — as far south in the 
* J> _J?uju£k-as^Bhattinda, a town in the Patiala State. A marvellous 
^ . place this even nowadays, set as it is amid deserts of sand, patched 
with green grain-fields. The low, insignificant city seems lost in 
the old fort ; a perfect mountain of a place, visible for miles 
and miles, a rose-red mass of sun-scorched bricks with white- 
edged, crenulated parapets so quaintly stern, so still more 
quaintly fragile-looking in its suggestion of some huge iced 

Here, doubtless, in the half-desert land, it was the sound of 
the koel knelling his sonorous note in the kikar trees, or the 
sudden transformation, mayhap, of the uncanny, witchlike, gnarled 
thickets of the low dhdk trees into coral -pink stretches, show- 
ing like sunset clouds on the gold of the sun-saturate sands, 


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Campaigns of the Crescent , 83 

that warned Mahmud he must be up and away from the oncoming 
of the heat. 

As he passed up the Peshawar valley, laden to the last limit /j -j^ 
with loot, the peach gardens must have been a-blossom ; and, * 
being a man with the odd strain of imagination in him, which all 
have had who have left their mark on India, he must, despite his h 
plunder, have regretted leaving so much beauty behind him. 

But he left tragedy also ; for Jaipal, the beaten king, went 
straight back to Lah6re, and having formally proclaimed himself 
unworthy to reign after having suffered defeat at the hands. of the 
unclean, mounted a funeral pyre, and burnt himselFm sight of his 
people, leaving his son Anang-paljo reign in fejs jteafl. 

Truly Indian history is provocative of picture-mak ing. We 
have one here which would tax most painters' power. Yet the 
look which must have been on the proud king's face, as, remember- j 
ing his name, "The Guardian of Victory," he defied defeat, j 
defied disgrace, by defying death, is worth recording, worth recall- I 
ing in these later days when the primitive virtues are somewhat 

So there was peace for three years. Apparently the plunder t 

was sufficient unto the day until 1004, when Mahmud again t$^ 
appeared with the return of the wild birds from Lake Mansarawar, 
on the Siberian Stejuaes ; but this was more a primitive campaign" 
against a tributary chief on the weste rn si de j) f th e Indus, than a 
real raid. * ~ 

The following year, however, things were organised on a larger 
scale, and he was opposed by Anang-pal, who met no better 1 / 
fate than his father, and fled incontinently to Kashmir. But \r ^^ 
Mahmud's progress southward was checked by the news of revolt .j*-* £" 
in Ghuzni, and he had to return in order to count scores with his \ ~* *" ( 
"pet converted Hindu, one Sek Pal, who, left governor, had }V 
resumed his Brahmanical threaa^and was in full swing of con- 
spiracy with his fellows in India. ~" ! 

It took the burly Mahomedan short time to settle his shrift, 
and send him to cells for life, so that the next fall of the leaf 
found Mahmud ready for his fourth invasion of India. 

A real invasion, a real resistance this time. For the Rajas of 
Lahore, Delhi, Gwalior, Ujjain, Ajmir, Kanauj, had joined con- 
federacy to rout the Unclean Stranger. It was a holy war: 
women sold their jewels, and men sent their hoards to furnish 
forth its munitions. 



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84 The Middle Age 

To no purpose. It is true that at the outset Mahmud suffered 

/>> a reverse. The Ghakkars, Scythic warrior race of the S altRange. 

laughed at the invaders entrenched camp amongst tneirbare 

v j hills, bore down on it, overpowered his outposts, and accounted 

for some four thousand of his army. 

But even that failed to stop these big, burly men, bent on plunder, 

J j bent on proselytising at the sword's point. The result of this 

1 J raid was the destruction of Nagar-kot, ancient town hard by the 

/j> temple called Jawala - Mukhi, or Flame's Mouth, where, since 

? ' ' . the beginning of Time, the jets of combustible gas issuing from 

the ground amongst the dark shadows of the sheltering spire 

have burnt bravely as emanations, manifestations, of the Goddess 

Durga, that Fury of Womanhood. According to native historians 

. Mahmud's returning army must have been a perfect caravan, for 

it carried with it about seven thousand pounds weight of gold 

coins, six thousand of gold and silver plate, fifteen hundred of 

* golden ingots, a hundred and twenty-eight thousand of unwrought 

silver, and more than a hundred and fifty pounds weight of pearls, 

corals, diamonds and rubies. 

But the combustible gas must have remained to be re-lit in 

honour of Mai Durga, and so have remained to help the memories 

of the iconoclasts ! A fine trade this, that of smashing golden idols 

in the name of the Prophet, and carrying the bits and the diamond 

t . \ and sapphire eyes away in the name of Mammon ! 

It found its apotheosis in the twelfth and last expedition to 
India, when Mahmud directed all his energy towards Som-nath, 
/ a temple renowned throughout Indifij set proudly on a peninsular 
4 in Guzerat, surrounded on all sides save one by the sea. 

The intervening seven excursions were all marked by note- 

^ worthy incidents, all full to the brim of reckless romance, and 

each left India the more helpless, the more ready to let the 

invader pass to fresh, more southern conquests. Indeed, a 

' certain suzerainty was acknowledged by many Hindu rajahs, 

\j i and on one occasion Mahmud's march was ostensibly to the 

1 ^| relief of a feudatory. 

But it would take too long to follow in detail events which were 
in general so alike. Swift marching, utter unpreparedness, almost 
pitiful submission, and then " a halt at some sacred city, during 
which the town was plundered, the idols broken, the temples 
; profaned, and the whole fired." Yet, as the ravaging raids touched 
Rajputana, resistance became more spirited. At one place the 


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Campaigns of the Crescent 85 

garrison rushed out through the breaches in true Kshatriyaj ^ 
fashion to do or die, whilst the women and children burned them- J -^ 
selves in silence in their houses. Not one, we are told, survived. 
This is the first mention in history of the johdr> or great war- y\ 
sacrifice of the Rajputs. It is not the last. 

So let us turn to Som- or Soma-nath. Now "Soma" is the 
Moon-God, " Nath " is Lord. We have, therefore, a simple Temple 
to the Moon by name ; but in reality Som-nath, or Som-eswara, 
is one of the forms of the God Siva — his self-existing form. 

The crescent moon on the forehead with which the God always 
is portrayed alludes to this, and. to the intimate relation between 
the phases of the planet as a measure of time, and the upright 
stone or lingam, which as all know is worshipped as a symbol of 
material Life. It is customary to condemn this nature or phallic 
worship in India as unclean, almost obscene ; it is not so, any- 
how, in spirit. 

Som-nath, then, was a shrine of Life. The idol in its holy of 
holies bore no semblance of created beings. It was the symbol of 
Creation itself, a tall, rounded, black monolith of stone, set six feet 
in the ground, rising ten feet above it. One of the twelve lingams 
believed by the Hindus to have descended from Heaven, it was 
unexpressedly holy, marvellously mighty in miracle. Small wonder, 
then, with a priesthood of clutching hands, that Som-nath stood I 
renowned as the richest shrine in India. ^ i 

It must have been fine to see this temple, with its fifty-six *? 
pillars set in rows, all carven and inlaid with gems, its gilded spires 
above the dark, unlit sanctuary, where the great bell swung on a 
solid gold chain which weighed some fifteen hundred pounds. 

Steps led down from it to the sea — that sea which was a miracle 
in itself to the ignorant, up-country pilgrim, accustomed to parched 
deserts, unwitting of such natural phenomena as tides ; for did it 
not bow, did it not rise and fall incessantly in constant adora- 
tion of the Great Lord of Life ? So, at any rate, said the priests, and 
the pilgrim went back to his parched desert with empty pockets, 
to dream for the rest of his life of the solemn, ceaseless adoration 
of the sea. Aye ! even when it raged black with monsoon winds, 
and spat white with fury at the temple walls, yet still in subservience, 
still as a slave. 

This was not a place to be yielded up of the Brahmans with- 

out a struggle. So we read of a three days' battle, of scaling 
ladders, of heavy reinforcements of the " idolatrous garrison/' of r 



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86 The Middle Age 

an "idolatrous" — surely there is no better word in the language 
with which to fight a foe ! — army in the field which withdrew 
Mahmud's personal attention. And then there is the crucial 
* 1 moment : Mahomedan troops beginning to waver, their leader 
I leaping from his horse, prostrating himself on the ground before 
the Lord God' of Battles, and imploring aid for the True Faith. 

To speak trivially, it did the trick. One wild, cheering rush, 

and "the Moslems broke through the enemy's line and laid five 

A thousand Hindus dead at their feet ; so the rout became general." 

^ So general that the garrison of four thousand, abandoning the 

t ([ /\ defence, escaped by the sea in boats. 

Nothing left, then, but to enter the temple in pomp. A goodly 
r procession of warriors ! Mahmud, his sons, his nobles ; all, no 
doubt, spitting profusely, while keeping their weather eye open on 
the gems starring the heavy, carven pillars. Darker and darker ! 
The pillars close in. No light now, save, — high up in the shadows 
-—one pendent jewelled lamp, reflected in the glistening stones, 
showing dimly the huge, massive golden chain, the swinging bronze 

And what more ? Only a roughly-polished, black marble, upright 
boulder, hung round, doubtless, as such lingams are to-day, with 
faded champak chaplets and marigold wreaths. 

Was it disappointment which made Mahmud strike at it with his 
mace ? One could imagine it so, but that he had had experience 
of the idle objects of which men make idols. Perhaps the backward 
swing of the mace-head hit the bell and sent its last hollow boom 
^ of appeal — which so many worshippers had raised — straight to 
the ears of the Lord of Life. 

It is a rare picture this, of one faith defying' another. It does 
not need the amplification which legend brings to it, in order to 
grip attention. 

That legend runs thus. When Mahmud had ordered two 
fragments to be hewn off the idol, one for the threshold of the 
mosque at Ghuzni, another for the threshold of his own palace, 
some of the two thousand priests of Baal in attendance offered 
untold gold to arrest further destruction ; an offer viewed with 
favour by the king's sons, and the attendant nobles. Smashing one 
idol out of -millions was but mildly meritorious, whereas the money 
thus gained might be given to the poor But the Judas argument 

"The Kin^"~ rto quote the text— " acknowledged there might 

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Campaigns of the Crescent 87 

be reason in what they said, but replied that if he should con- 
sent to such a measure his name would be handed down to 
posterity as 'Mahmud th e idol-selle r.* and he wished it to be / 
* Mahmud the idol-breaker.' ke therefore directed the troops ' . 
to proceed in their work. The next blow broke open the belly * 
of Som-nith, which was hollow, and discovered a quantity of 
diamonds, rubies, and pearls of much greater value than the amount ^ 
which the Brahmans had offered." ' 

Very dramatic, no doubt, but, unfortunately, none of these 
lingams are hollow. It is possible, however, that the story found 
base in the discovery of sacred vaults. 

Be that as it may, Mahmtid, "having secured the wealth of p 1 
Som-nath," apparently fell in love with the country round about it ; ' — . 
so much so that he proposed remaining there and sending his son \ 
Masud back to reign at Ghuzni. It needed pressure on the part \ 
of his officers to induce him to stir ; but after some difficulty in 
securing a Governor for Guzerit, he started to march direct ^ 
towards Ghuzni by way of the desert. 

This same difficulty gives us another picture. 

. Apparently there were two cousins Dabeshleems — fateful name, of * / ' 
what nationality or family absolutely uncertain — one a hermit, the ? 
other a rajah. The hermit was made governor, the prince became j \ 
pretender. "* 

Mahmud, ere leaving, reduced the latter, and handed him over 
prisoner to the former. To this the hermit objected. But one 
course, he said, was open to him, since by the tenets of his religion 
no king could be put to death ; he must build a vault under his 
throne and place the unfortunate gentleman therein for life. This 
would be inconvenient, therefore he prayed the conqueror to J\ 
carry the rajah back with him to Ghuzni. 

So Mahmud, his army, and his vast loot, set out for the desert, set 
their faces for the last time away from the wealth and idolatry of 
India. Set them, as it turned out, very nearly away from all wealth, i 
all faiths ; for in the desert the whole army was misled for three f • 
days and three nights by a Hindu guide, " so that many of the 
troops died raving mad from the intolerable heat and thirst." A 
Hindu guide who, under torture, confessed exultantly that he f /. 
was one of the priests of Som-nith, and so died, satisfied with his 
measure of revenge. 

Mahmud, however, had only to prostrate himself once more, and 


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88 The Middle Age 

lo I a guiding meteor, and after a long night-march, water ! Water, 
y^ even though it must have been the Gre at Salt La ke^ 

After this, time passed in comparative uneventfulness, until on 
I , /l ft the 23rd of April A.D. 1030, in the sixty-third year of his age, " this 
^^ great conqueror gave up his body to death and his soul to 
f / immortality amid the tears of his people." 

t ' One of his last recorded remarks was his exclamation when, in 
answer to his enquiry, the Lord High Treasurer told him that 
before becoming extinct, the last dynasty had accumulated seven 
pounds weight of precious stones. "Thanks be to Thee, All- 
Powerful Being ! " cried Mahmud, prostrating himself yet once 
more. " Thou hast enabled me to collect more than a hundred 

What did he do with all the vast wealth which in the course of his 
missionary work he managed to annex ? We know that he built 
a magnificent mosque at Ghuzni called " The Eclestial Bride " ; 
but that could not have absorbed it all. 

Indeed we know much of it was still in the treasury ; for two 

days before his death he ordered all the gold and the caskets of 

; precious stones to be brought before him, and " having seen them, 

/ he wept with regret, ordering them to be carried back, without 

exhibiting his generosity at that time to anybody." 

Gold had evidently gripped at the heart and soul of this middle- 
aged, well-shaped, ugly man, who was strongly pitted with the small- 
pox. His was not a lovable personality in any way. Gifted with a 
touch of genius; gifted above all things with that marvellous vitality 
which is always as magic to the Indian, he was just, curiously callous, 
and absolutely sceptical. 

He openly doubted if he was really the son of his father, and 
scoffed at the idea of a future state. Certainly annihilation would 
be a kinder fate than the one which the poet Saadi gives to him in 
the Gulistan, and which may be paraphrased thus : — 

" The King of Khurasan saw in a dream 
Mahmud the son of Subaktigeen, 
Dead for this hundred years or more, 
. His head and his heart, his arms and his thighs 

Dissolved to dust, and only his eyes 
Moved in their sockets and saw 
His gold, his empire, everything 
He loved in the hands of another King." 


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A.D. IOOI TO A.D. 1200 

Part II 

The Great Raider Mahmud being now put past, the Campaigns 
of the Crescent continued in feebler fashion. In truth, for a few 
years Mahomed and Masud, the dead king's twin sons, were 
occupied in settling the succession. Mahomed, the elder by some 
hours, mild, tractable, was his father's nominee and on the spot ; 
Masud, on the other hand, was a great warrior, bold, independent, 
and promptly claimed as his right those provinces which he had 
won by his sword. So they came to blows. 

At the outset Mahomed's piety failed him ; for having decorously 
halted his host during the whole of the Month of Fasting — 
Ramz&n — Masud thereinafter fell upon him, armed at all points, 
defeated him, and put out his eyes after he had reigned a short 
five months. 

Masud, the new king, appears to have been a man of consider- 
able character and grim humour, for one of the first acts of his 
reign was in cold blood to hang an unfortunate gentleman who 
once, long years before, when the question of succession was the 
subject of conversation, had been heard to say crudely that if 
Masud ever came to the throne he would suffer himself to be 

So he suffered. 

But in truth, as we read the story of this Ghuznevide dynasty, 
and of the Ghori dynasty which followed it, we rub our eyes and 
wonder how many centuries we have gone back. For these big, 
bold, burly men are fairly savages in comparison with the cultured 
Hindu whom they harried. And Masud, though by repute an 
affable gentleman, generous even to prodigality, and of uncommon 
personal strength and courage, was as turbulent as a king as 
he had been as a prince. 



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90 The Middle Age 

His favourite maxim was, " Dominion follows the longest sword." 
His was not only long, but heavy. No other man of his court 
could wield it, and an arrow from his bow would pierce the hide 
of a mailed elephant. During the ten years of his reign he entered 
India with an army three times. But the first of these raids 
was followed, a.d. 1033, by a terrible famine, a still more terrible 
outbreak of plague, from which in one month, more than forty 
thousand people died in Isphahan alone. 

This was in its turn followed by a severe defeat of the Ghuzne- 
vide arms by* the Turkomans on the north-east frontier ; for it 
must not be forgotten that though these dynasties of which we 
are treating are counted as of India, they have in reality but 
little to do with it. They were but titular suzerains, and very 
often not that, of the more northerly provinces of Hindustan. 

Apparently as a salve to resentment and shame at this defeat, 
Masud began to build a fine palace at Ghuzni, over which he must 
have spent some of his father's treasures, for a golden chain and 
a golden crown of incredible weight appears as a canopy in the 
Hall of Audience. 

It must have been this depletion of the royal treasures which 
led to his last and most successful campaign against the kingdom 
of Sivalak, where he is said to have found enormous wealth ; and 
so on to Sonput, ancient Hindu shrine and city to the north 
of Delhi, whence he made a Mahmud-like return laden with 

A quaint old city is Sonput, and a curious authenticity of its 
hoar antiquity turned up not long ago, when some cultivators were 
digging a well. This was a small clay image of the Sun-God, a 
deity to which there is now in India but one single shrine. 

But here the star of Masud's fortune touched its zenith. The 
Turkomans, encouraged by success, renewed operations, finally 
forcing the king to abandon his border principalities and seek 
time in India to recover strength for renewed efforts. 

Urged, perhaps, by kindness, perhaps by fear, he ordered his 
blinded and imprisoned brother to be brought to Lahore, with 
the unforeseen result that his household troops suddenly revolted, 
and hoisting the blind prisoner on to their shoulders, incontinently 
proclaimed him once more King. 

It was all over in a moment ; and Masud, whose life was spared 
by the mild Mahomed, found himself forced to beg a subsistence 
of bis brother. His pride, however, would npt stand the pitiful 


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Campaigns of the Crescent 91 

dole of £$ which was sent him, so he promptly borrowed £10 
from his servants and bestowed them as bakshish on the 
messenger who had brought, and who took back, the shabby 

Not a very tactful way of beginning what was practically an 
imprisonment.. But it was not to last long, for Prince Ahmed, 
Mahomed's son, in whose favour the blind king resigned the 
crown, would have no half-measures, and prevented further com- 
plications by burying Masud alive. 

The historian explains that the prince was suspected of a 
" strong taint of insanity." 

In truth, homicidal mania appears to set in generally, for the 
remaining records of the Ghuznevide dynasty are as irrational, 
as murderous as transpontine melodrama. 

Prince Ahmed was in due time murdered by the murdered 
Masud's son, who reigned long enough to see his Indian empire 
almost reft from him; since with violent internal dissensions 
racking the body politic, there was naturally no time for foreign 
affairs. So in the year A.D. 1048 the Rajah of Delhi, taking 
counsel with his compeers of Ajmtr, Kanauj, Kalungar, Gwalior, 
once more made themselves practically independent of the 
Crescent. Only Lah6re remained Mahomedan, repelling a siege 
of seven months, and after actual street fighting, succeeded in 
driving off the investing force. 

Thus in a History of India there is small need to note that 
Masud II., a child of four years, succeeding his father, reigned 
six days ; or that Hussan Ali and Absal Raschid between them 
numbered but four years. 

In the general turmoil, wonder comes faintly how Ibrahim — 
a worthy soul who, as the historian says, "begot 36 sons and 
40 daughters by various women" — ever managed to rule for 
forty-two years. Apparently by a peaceful policy ; but, as the same 
historian goes on to say that this monarch " was remarkable for 
morality and devotion, having in his youth succeeded in subduing 
his sensual appetites," one hesitates before accepting either the 
narrator's facts or his deductions. 

Finally, after the Ghuznevide dynasty had touched a bakers' 
dozen, came one Byram, who was destined to lose the throne 
for his race by two useless and brutal murders. The first was 
the public execution of his son-in-law, an apparently harmless 
prince of Ghor — as the country of the Afghans was then called.. 


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92 The Middle Age 

The reason of this act is obscure, though it seems probable he 
was suspected of high treason. Be that as it may, Kutb-din 
Ghori- Afghan was an ill man to assail, for he had two big brothers. 
The first of these, Saif-ud-din, had no little success in his immediate 
campaign of revenge. Byr&m fled, Ghuzni was occupied ; but 
finally, by a stratagem, the victor fell into his enemy's hands, 
whereupon the latter doubled and excelled his former crime, by 
blackening his captive's face, and sending him face tailwards 
round the town on a bullock as a preliminary to torturing him, 
beheading him, and impaling his grand wazir. 

Allah-ud-din, the last brother, then took up the gloves, after 
defying Byr&m in these words : " Your threats are as impotent 
as your arms ! It is no new thing for kings to make war on their 
neighbours, but barbarity like yours is unknown to the brave, 
and such as none have heard of being exercised towards princes. 
You may therefore be assured that God has forsaken you, and has 
ordained that I, Allah-ud-din, should be the instrument of that just 
revenge denounced against you for putting to death the represen- 
tative of the independent and very ancient family of Ghor." 

A quaint touch ! that of the " very ancient," showing the value 
set on blue blood in those days, 

Allah-ud-din proved a true prophet. In the resulting battle 
the two " Khurmiels," gigantic brothers-in-arms, the Gog and 
Magog of those days, brought victory to his arms by the ripping 
up of elephants' bellies and other prodigies of strength and 
valour. Byram fled, to die miserably in India overwhelmed by 
misfortunes, while the conqueror earned for himself the title of 
"The Burner of Worlds," by the deadly revenge he took on 
Ghuzni and its inhabitants. 

" The massacre," writes the historian, " continued for the space 
of seven days, in which time pity seems to have fled from the 
earth, and the fiery spirits of demons to actuate men. A number 
of the most venerable and learned persons were, to adorn the 
triumph, carried in chains to Feroz-Kuh, where the victor ordered 
their throats to be cut, and tempering earth with their blood, used 
it to plaster the walls of his native city." 

Allah-ud-din thus ended the House of Ghuzni ; for though two 
descendants of Byram's kept a feeble hold on power from Lah6re 
during the space of a few years, he was the last real king. His 
actions are strangely at variance with his character, for he is said 
to have " been blest with a noble and generous disposition J " 


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Campaigns of tHe Crescent 93 

We hear also of an uncommon thirst for knowledge. But in 
truth these wild, revengeful Mahomedans of the borderland were 
then very much as they are to-day ; that is to say, proud, lawless, 
quick to respond in kind to good Or evil, above all, possessed 
by a perfect devil of revenge — the cruel revenge which is ever 
associated with sensuality. 

So, naturally, Allah-ud-din, after plastering the city walls with 
blood, spent the gold he had taken from Ghuzni on pleasure, until 
he died four years later, in a.d. 1156. 

His son only reigned for a year. A fine fellow this, apparently, 
both physically and mentally, if we are to believe what is said of 
him ; but, as usual, passionate, revengeful. So, seeing a chief who 
had fought against and defeated his father wearing some of the 
family jewels which had been stripped from his own wife after that 
occasion, he out with his sword and slew the offender forthwith. 
Whereupon the dead man's brother, choosing a convenient moment 
in the middle of a subsequent battle, out with his lance and ran 
the young king through the body. 

Scarcely any of them, however, died in their beds. The pro- 
cession of murders and sudden deaths becomes indeed monotonous, 
but was now to be broken for a while by the advent of another of 
those strong men who every now and again make, as it were, a 
landmark in Indian history. 

This was ShahUb-ud-din who, counting the time during which 
he was his elder brother's deputy, was to reign for close on fifty 
years, and once more weld the principalities of India proper into 
one solid empire. 

A strange history is this of the devoted brothers, who appear 
from their babyhood to have gone through life hand in hand in 
fortune and misfortune ; but the house of Ghori seems to have 
been remarkable alike for its family feuds and for its family 
affection. The latter it was, be it remembered, which led to the 
establishment of the dynasty. Another peculiarity was their sonless- 
ness. Ghiass-ud-din, the elder brother, succeeded to the throne 
by virtue of cousinship only, and as neither he nor Shahab-ud-din 
had sons, it passed at their death to a nephew. 

Before that, however, India had to be reconquered, and for this 
purpose the Campaigns of the Crescent had to recommence. 

The first was in a.d. 11 76, when Mahomed Shahab-ud-din— for 
ere commencing his task he added the name of the Prophet to 
his own, which signifies the "Meteor of Faith" — swept through 

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94 The Middle Age 

the low-lying lands about the junction of the Punjab rivers with the 
Indus. He must have had in his mind's eye the exploits of Mahmud 
nigh on two hundred years before. Perhaps it was this memory 
which made him choose what is practically the same name ; on 
the other hand, he may only have been seeking an excuse for 
plunder, like the dead conqueror had done in the religious 
enthusiasm roused by the name of the prophet 

Be that as it may, in reading the account of his exploits, one is 
tempted to rub one's eyes and ask, "Is this Mahmfid of Ghuzni, 
or Mahomed of Ghori ? " So curiously alike are they in every way. 

He did not, however, lead quite so many raids : on the other 
hand, he was more permanently successful in them, despite far 
more organised resistance than that which had opposed his great 

In fact, it is in this resistance that the real interest of the period 
lies, so it may be as well to make a complete volte face, and having 
viewed the introduction of I slim to India through Mahomedan 
eyes, look at these final Campaigns of the Crescent from the 
Rajput side. 

Before passing on to this, let us picture the man who, for close 
on half a century, found hjs sole occupation in a soldier's life. 
Here we have no added reputation of the arts or sciences. We are 
told he was a great king and a just man, but he appears to have 
been quite unscrupulous towatds every one excepting his brother. 
Many of his successes were due to treachery, and when he died — 
an old man, assassinated in his sleep by those same wild tribes 
of the Punjab Salt Range who inflicted so much damage on 
Mahmtid of Ghuzni — he was the richest king in the world. " The 
treasure," says the chronicler, " which this prince left behind him 
is almost incredible. In diamonds alone of various sizes he had 
five hundreds muns (at the lowest computation about 1,000 lbs.), 
the result of his nine expeditions into Hindustan, from each of 
which, excepting two occasions, he returned laden with wealth." 

Yet India was still rich ! 


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A.D. 1 1 76 TO A.D. 1206 

MORE than a hundred years had passed since Mahmud of Ghuzni's 
strong grip had relaxed on India. During that time she had 
reverted, as she always will revert, to those ideals of life which 
suit her dreamy yet fireful temperament. 

The fierce on-sweep of the Moslem scimitar had mowed down 
the tangle of petty chiefships which had grown up in the Dark 
Ages, and so left room for the spreading of four great kingdoms, 
Delhi, Ajmir, Kanauj, Guzerat, which were all held by the repre- 
sentatives of certain Rajput clans. 

Now the Rajputs are born soldiers. They represent the second, 
or military (called the Kshatriya) caste of ancient Vedic time ; 
they have provided India for long centuries with her warriors, her 
nobles, her monarchs. Raj-putra means, in fact, a king's son. 
Their history is a magnificent one. They have faced and fought 
every enemy which Fate has brought to their native land in the 
past ; they are ready still to face and fight whatever may come 
to it in the future. They are the Sam urai of Ind ia, each clan led_ 
by a hereditary leader, and forming a separate community, bound 
by the strongest ties of military devotion and pride nf rap*. ._.— -*-^ 

They claim to have sprung from the sun, or from the moon, 
or from the fire ; and between them lies ever the faint jealousy 
of a different origin. Thus the Tomiras or Tuars of Delhi claimed 
the kinship of flame with the Chauhans of Ajmir, while the 
Rathors of Kanauj stood by their distant sun-cousins of Guzerat. 
For to this day the pride of ancestry is the Rajput's most 
cherished inheritance. Often he has little else; but he stills 
scorns to turn his lance into a plough-share. 

For the rest there is no people in the world whose history yields 
more pure romance. The chivalry of Europe seems strained 
and artificial besfde the stern, straight-forward code of honour 



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96 The Middle Age 

by which the early Rajputs regulated their dealings alike with 
women and with other men ; and no roundel of troubadour or 
challenge of knight-errant could have roused more enthusiasm 
than did the wild love and war songs of the Rajput bards. 

These, then, were the people whose resistance Mahomed Shah&b- 
ud-din of Ghor had to overcome, when, after an ineffectual attempt 
to reach the heart of India through the sandy deserts of Mult&n 
and Guzerat, and a further swoop on the country about Lah6re 
(in which, by treacherous stratagem, he seized on the persons who 
still prolonged the dying Ghuznevide dynasty and sent them 
northwards to imprisonment and death), he finally marched on 
Hindustan proper in the year a.d. 1191. 

And here once more the pink-and- white mass of the huge fort 
of Bhatinda heaves into view as our tnise en scene. The flowers 
of the d&kh trees had long since been picked as dye-stuff by 
the village women, when once more the hosts of hardy horse- 
men swept over the horizon. For, as ever, the Toovkhs — as the 
peasantry learned to call these wild raiders— came with the flights 
of winter birds. The fort gave in at once to the fierce attack of 
the Mahomedans. The filagree sugar- work on its battlements 
seems, indeed, to have infected the mass of stone beneath it with 
frailty, for despite its apparent strength, Bhatinda has been 
taken and retaken ofttimes. So, leaving a garrison there, Shah&b- 
ud-din commenced his return ; for the hardy horsemen always 
seem to have been more afraid of melting in the heat of India 
than meeting the onslaught of her armies. 

Ere he had gone far, however, news of recall came to him. The 
great Prithvi-Raj, conjoint King of Delhi and Ajmir, with many 
other Indian princes, two hundred thousand horse, and three 
thousand elephants was behind him. 

Here was challenge indeed ! The heat was forgotten ; he faced 
round to the relief of the garrison he had left, and boldly passing 
Bhatinda, paused to give battle on that wild plain between Karnai 
and Delhi, where half the struggles for the possession of India 
have been fought to the bitter end. 

He must have awaited his enemy with anxiety, for the fame of 
Pirthvi-Raj had spread even amongst Mahomedans. To the Hindus 
he was a demi-god : the personification of every Rajput virtue, the 
pattern of all Rajput manhood. A bold lover, a recklessly brave 
knight-errant, the story of his exploits, as told by his bard, Chand, 
fills many books, and is still listened to of winter nights beside the 


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The Rdjput Resistance; n. 99 

smoke-palled fires by half the men and women in; & 

be sufficient to recount one here to show what mai^ ^ 

was, and how he comes still to hold the admiratia 
the romantic Rajputs, but of all India. ' . 

Prithvi-Raj, then, was of the Chauhan, Fire-born \ 
of Ajmir only, by father-to-son descent, the kingship \ . 
come to him by the death of his maternal grandfatLL witnout } 
male issue. 

But the Rajah of Kanauj was also grandson, and elder grandson, 
of the dead king by another daughter. Hence arose^ejixy^and^tt^/ 
f ) strife between the cousins ; the more so, because the sixteen-year- C' 

7 ' old Prithvi carried all things before him with an dan not to be — — - 
imitated. It was all very well to match the young hero's Great 
Horse sacrifice (the last one, it is believed, in India), with which 
he claimed empire, by instituting a Sai-nair, accompanied by a 
^ Self-choice (also the last), for one's only daughter, the Princess 
-j? ) Sunjogata of Kanauj. Now the ceremony of Sai-nair is a most 
august one. It is virtually a claim for universal supremacy, for 
divine honour. Every one concerned in it, even the scullion in the 
kitchen who helps to cook the feast, must be of royal blood. So M 

all India's princes were bidden to take their part in it, excepting 
Prithvi-Raj, and in his place an image of clay was made and set 
to the lowest job-«-that of door-keeper. 

Thus the Rajah of Kanauj strove to save his dignity, for the rites 
were equally old, equally honourable ; but what man, even though 
he were king, could calculate on what a young girl, just blossoming 
into womanhood, would say or do ? 

As a matter of fact, the young Princess Fortunata (a literal trans- 
lation of the name) did a very distressing thing. No doubt as she 
entered the splendid arena (decorated, possibly, in imitation of the 
celebrated one, described in the Mahabharata as the scene of Drau- 
padi's Swayambara), where all the assembled princes of India — 
excepting, of course, her wicked cousin, Prince Prithvi — were 
eagerly awaiting her choice, she looked very sweet and innocent — 
quite entrancing, briefly, in her fresh young beauty, about which 
every one was raving ; but who would have dreamed of the mischief 
which was lurking behind the eyes down-dropped as she stood 
hesitating, the marriage garland — which every prince longed to 
feel, even as a yoke, round his neck — in her dainty little hands. 

And then ? Hey presto ! Her dainty little feet sped determinedly 
over the Court to the door, and there was the garland, not round 


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96 / The Middle Age 

b>«y living man, but be-decorajing the misshapen image of clay 
which Jai-Chand, her father, had caused to be put in absent 
Prithvi's place t 

There must have been wigs on the green in the women's apart- 
ments that fateful day, with papa cursing and mamma upbraiding, 
while all the little culprit's female relations held up pious hands 
of horror. But the deed was done, and there in broad daylight, 
on the wings of fierce love and pride, awakened by the tale of that 
maiden garland on cold clay, was the twenty-one-year-old Prince 
Prithvi himself, the flower of Rajput chivalry, followed by youthful 
heroes, ready, like their chief, for soft kisses or hard blows. The 
last came first in that desperate five-days-running fight all the way 
back to Delhi, with willing Princess Fortunata in their midst, her 
cheek paling but her eyes dry, as one by one the dear, brave lads 
fell out from her cortege dead or dying. 

But the bravest, the dearest, the best, held her close, unharmed, 
and so the soft kisses came at last. 

For Prince Prithvi, though he lost some friends — lost, as the 
historians put it, "the sinews of India" — kept his prize, and gained 
for himself immortal memory in the hearts of all Rajput maidens 
even to the present day. 

This, then, was the paladin who took the field against the 
bearded, middle-aged Mahomed Shahab-ud-din, and deftly out- 
flanking his wings, drove them back and back until the whole 
Mahomedan army showed a circle surrounded by the enemy. 
In the centre the great general himself, mad with passion at 
the counsel sent to him by his subordinates to save himself as 
best he could. His reply was to cut down the messenger, and 
calling on all who would to follow him, rush out on the enemy, 
dealing reckless, almost futile death. To no purpose. Prithvi's 
younger brother, marking down his quarry, drove his elephant 
full against the burly - bearded leader of the desperate sally ; 
but Mahomed Ghori lacked no courage, and the charge was 
met half-way, horse against leviathan, lance couched to lance. 

And the honours lay with the Moslem, for Chawand Rao took 
the lance-head full in his mouth, to the destruction of many teeth. 
But Prithvi was in support of his brother, and a well-aimed 
arrow twanged and quivered in the northerner's scimitar arm ; 
he reeled in his saddle and would have fallen, had not a faithful 
servant, taking advantage of the wild, swift closing in of rescue 
for the wounded monarch, leapt up behind him in the saddle. 


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The Rajput Resistance 99 

and turning the horse's head to. the^pen, carried the almost fainting 
king from the field. He was followed by his whole army, harassed 
for full 40 miles by the victorious Hindus. 

Princess Fortunata's kisses must have been sweet that night 
to her victorious hero. But Mahomed Shahdb-ud-din's calm 
had gone. Smileless, he waited for the healing of his wound at 
Lahdre, then, returning to Ghor, publicly disgraced every officer 
who had not followed his forlorn hope, by parading them round 
the city like horses or mules, their noses in "nose-bags filled 
with barley, which he forced them to eat like brutes," and after- 
wards flinging them into prison. So two years passed in moody 
anger and sullen disgrace, crushed into forgetfulness by reckless 
pleasure and festivity. Then, taking heart of grace, he got 
together a picked force of 120,000 Toorki and Afghin cavalry 
recruits, for the most part men of his own class and calibre, 
whose helmets were encrusted with jewels, their cuirasses inlaid 
with gold ; and so off Peshawur ways. 

"Since the day of defeat, ,, he said to an old sage, "despite 
external appearances, I have never slumbered with ease, or waked 
but in sorrow. I go, therefore, to recover my lost honour from 
these idolaters, or die in the attempt." 

" My king," replied the- wise old man, kissing the ground, 
" wherefore should not those whom you have so justly disgraced 
likewise have opportunity of wiping away the stain of their 

The plea struck him by its justice. He issued orders for the 
disgraced officers' freedom, and gave leave for those desirous 
of redeeming their character to follow his example. A picked 
force this, indeed, with a vengeance ! 

' And on the other side was haughty defiance, marked still by 
the chivalrous sense of honour which, to such as Prithvi-Raj, 
was dearer than life. 

A proud acceptance of the issues met the curt declaration of 
war should the Indians refuse to embrace the true faith, which 
the Mahomedan general sent to Ajmir by accredited ambassador. 
A 'cute move this ; one to enhance the martial ardour of his 
men ; perhaps to still further inflame his own determination to 
turn past defeat to present victory. Then ensued a pause for 
parley, in which the Princess Fortunata had her share — a worthy 
share, as the following extracts will show. Till then her kisses 
had lulled Prithvi-Raj to forgetfulness of sterner things ; now 


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roo The Middle Age 

they were to rouse him from his dream. For this was her 
reply when her husband, leaving his War-Council to deliberate, 
sought wisdom where he had so often found pleasure : — 

" What fool asks woman for advice ? The world 
Holds her wit shallow. . . . Even when the truth 
Comes from her lips men stop their ears and smile. 
And yet without the woman where is man ? 
We hold the power of Form— for us the Fire 
Of Shiv's creative force flames up and burns : 
Lo ! we are thieves of Life and sanctuaries 
Of Souls. Vessels are we of virtue and of vice, 
Of knowledge and of utmost ignorance. 
Astrologers can calculate from books 
The courses of the stars, but who is he 
Can read the pages of a woman's heart ? 
Our book has not been mastered ; so men say 
1 She hath no wisdom ' but to hide their lack 
Of understanding. Yet we share your lives, 
Your failures, your successes, griefs and joys. 
Hunger and thirst, if yours, are ours, and Death 
Parts us not from you ; for we follow fast 
To serve you in the mansion of the Sun. 
Love of my heart ! Lo ! you are as a swan 
That rests upon my bosom as a lake. 
V/ There is no rest for thee but here, my lord ! 

And yet arise to Victory and Fame. 
Sun of the Chauhans ! Who has drunk so deep 
Of glory and of pleasure as my lord ? 
And yet the destiny of all is death : 
Yea even of the Gods — and to die well 

Is life immortal Therefore draw your sword, 

Smite down the foes of Hind ; think not of self— 
The garment of this life is frayed and worn. 
Think not of me— we twain shall be as one 
Hereafter and for ever. — Go, my king ! " 

So the fiery cross sped round Rajputana, and ere long Prithvi- 
/^ Raj could confront the enemy with an army of 300,000 horse, 
3,000 elephants, and a large body of infantry. They encamped 
opposite and within sight of each other on the old battle-field, 
with the river Sar&swati, which was soon to lose itself in the 
desert sands beyond, running between the opposing armies. 
Despite the disparity in numbers the forces were not ill-matched, 
for the Indians were hampered by a thousand old traditions, 
old accoutrements, old scruples. The Mahomedans, on the other 


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The Rljput Resistance 


hand, were full up with desire for gold, for souls. But it was 
a holy war on both sides. The Hindus had sworn on Ganges 
water to conquer or die, the Moslem had sworn likewise on the 
Koran ; so heads were bowed in humble prayer to the Lord 
of Hosts, and human hearts beat high with murderous hope. 
Quaint conjunction when all is said and done ! 

Thus far, well. Now comes Mahomed Shahab-ud-din's diplo- 
matic strategy, which some might call by another name, even 
though the account of what occurred comes to us through the 
pen of an ardent Mahomedan, and cannot, therefore, but put 
the best face on what happened. Prithvi-Raj, then, facing his 
foe, so much smaller in numbers, so altogether insignificant beside 
the splendid lavishness of the Rajput camp, wrote a letter to 
Mahomed Shahab-ud-din. Whether dictated by mere pride or 
martial honour, by contemptuous pity, religious dislike to take 
life, or, as the Mahomedans aver, by mere brag, the terms of 
it are worth reading : — 

" To the bravery of our soldiers we know you are no stranger : 
and to our great superiority in numbers, which daily increases, 
your eyes bear witness. If you are wearied of your own existence, 
yet have .pity on your troops who may still think it a happiness to 
live. It were better, then, you should repent in time of the rasli 
resolution you have taken, and we shall permit you to retreat in 

Not an undignified appeal, this first recorded attempt at peace 
with honour. Its reply was, as the historian puts it, "politic." It 
consisted in Mahomed Shahab-ud-din's assertion that he was 
only the general of his brother's forces ; that therefore he dare 
not retreat without orders, but he would be glad of a truce until 
such time as information could be sent to Ghuzni and an answer 

A simple and admirable adjunct to the night-attack which followed, 
and which found the Rajputs unprepared, in fancied security. 

About the false dawning, when even the noise of revelry in the 
opposite camp had quieted down to sleep, the Mahomedan army 
forded the river in silence, and drew up in order on the sands 
beyond. Some portion of it was actually within the Hindu lines 
ere the alarm was raised. 

Even so, the Rajput cavalry was to the front immediately, and 
checked the advance, 



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102 The Middle Age 

For what followed, Mahomed Shahab-ud-din deserves unstinted 
praise. It was good general-ship. 

He formed his bowmen into four divisions, and placing them 
one behind the other, ordered the first to come into fighting line, 
discharge their arrows, and wheel to the rear, thus giving place 
to the second fighting line, the whole army to retreat slowly, giving 
ground whenever hard pressed. 

All that day he fought, biding his time with such patience as 
he and his twelve thousand steel-armoured horsemen could muster. 
The sun was just setting when, judging the delusion of victory had 
done its work in the hot heads of the Rajputs, he gave the orders 
for one desperate charge. 

It did its work ! 

" Din ! Din ! Fateh Mahomed ! " once and for all overcame the 
Hindu war-cry of, " Victory, Victory ! " In the years to come 
success and failure were to attend both ; but only in detail. The 
great issue between Brahmanism and Mahomedism was fought 
f out on the vast Karnil battle-plain in a.d. 1193, when, as the 
chronicler of Islam says, 

"one desperate charge carried death and destruction throughout 
the Hindu ranks. The disorder increased everywhere, till at 
,\ length the panic became general. The Moslems, as if they now 
y only began to be in earnest, committed such havoc, that this pro- 
digious army once shaken, like a great building tottered to its fall, 
and was lost in its own ruins." 

, How many thousand pagans "went below?" Who knows? 

But one is sure that Mahomed Shahib-ud-din duly praised God 
from whom all blessings flow. His subsequent atrocities prove 
that he must have relied on something which he deemed Divine 
Guidance ; mere humanity could never have been so cruel. 

Half Rajput chivalry lay dead under the stars, but the flower 
of it was hiding in the sugar-cane brakes, stealing his way back to 
Delhi, to the Princess Sunjog&ta his wife, who, as she had watched 
him go forth, lance in rest, his sword buckled on by her own 
steady hands, had said with foreboding courage to her maidens : 
" In Yoginipur (Delhi) I shall see him no more : we will meet in 
Swarga." The tale of what happened is almost beyond telling. 

Prithvi Rajah was murdered in cold blood, murdered ignomini- 

(V ously. The Princess Fortunate escaped a like, or a worse, fate by 

a funeral pyre, and Delhi was ^iven over to such hideous devils 


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The Rdjput Resistant >^ 107 

work as even that long-suffering city has never see^ q 

The followers of the Prophet wiped out their own ' 

disgrace in torrents of blood, filled their pocke 
went on to Ajmir, enacted a like tragedy, and sol 
wards when the pink clouds of the low-lying grove 
began to blossom about the battle-field where the suj 
had set for ever. . 

But Mahomed Shahab-ud-din left his pet Turki slave Kutb-din- 
Eibuk behind him at Delhi, and he, assuming almost regal honours, 
"compelled all the districts around to acknowledge the faith of 

How many murders go to the making of a Moslem is a question 
which might fairly be asked. Converts, however, hardly came in 
fast enough for Shah&b-ud-din's zeal, so the next year saw him 
back again to help his slave in crushing the Rajah of Kanauj, who, 
doubtless, had not been of Prithvi-Raj's host. Thence he marched 
to Benares, in which hot-bed of idolatry he thoroughly enjoyed 
himself by smashing the idols in a thousand temples, which he 
subsequently purified by prayer and purgation, and thereinafter 
consecrated to the worship of the true God. 

This was his last real outing, for Fate — can it have been that 
she dissociated herself from his doubtful use of the white flag — 
began to play him false. His slave - viceroy showed inclination 
to plunder on his own behalf, and though the master once more 
returned to India, it was but a flying visit, apparently to check 
independence. To no avail, for Kutb-din-Eibuk, "ambitious of 
extending his conquests, led an army into Raj pu tana, where, 
having experienced severe defeat, he was compelled to seek pro- 
tection in the fort at Ajmir." 

For the fighting spirit in the Rajput was not to be quenched by 
blood, or burned out by fire. It was to flame up fiercely for many 
a century to come, until the wisdom of Akbar won it over to his 

Mahomed Shahab-ud-din's hands were, however, too full to 
permit of his giving much attention to India. His brother, 
Ghiass-ud-din, the mere figure-head of a king, died in a,d. 1202, 
and though Shahab-ud-din was crowned in his stead without any 
opposition, bad luck seemed to attend him afterwards. His army 
was literally cut down to a mere body-guard of a hundred troopers 
in Khorassan, and though his fortunes were recovered in some 
measure, his time seems to have been taken up in quelling the 


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\oz/ The Middle Age 

is of his favourite slaves whom he had promoted to 

In India, Kutb-din, it is true, remained faithful in name, though 
his power and prestige rose above his master's, and he was 
-virtually king, not viceroy. 

Finally, in a.d. 1206 , the leader of the last real raid of the 
Crescent into India was assassinated by the Ghakkars of the 
Salt Range upon the banks of the Indus. 

/ " The weather being sultry, the King had ordered the screens 

, / which surround the royal tents to be struck in order to give free 
(/ admission to the air. This afforded the assassins an opportunity 

of seeing into the sleeping apartments. So at night time they 
found their way up to the tents and hid themselves, while one of 
their number advanced boldly to the tent door. Challenged by a 
sentry, he plunged his dagger in the man's breast, and this rousing 
the guard, who ran out to see what was the matter, the hidden 
assassin took that opportunity of cutting a way into the King's 

"He was asleep, with two slaves fanning him. They stood 
petrified with terror as the Ghakkars sheathed their daggers in 
the King's body, which was afterwards found to have been pierced 
by no fewer than twenty-two wounds." 


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A.D. 1206 TO A.D. 1288 

" The Empire of Delhi was founded by a slave." 

So runs the well-known jibe. And it is true ; for although India, 
despite the combined resistance of the Rajputs, was overcome 
during the reign of Mahomed Shahab-ud-din Ghori, the real 
glory of conquest belongs by rights to Eibuk, the slave ; Eibuk 
of the "broken little finger," who took the name of Kutb-ud-din, 
( >oxJ?Ql g:Sta r of the Fa ith- —— — — 

To those who know India the name conjures up one of the most 
marvellous sights in the world. A dark December morning in 
the Punjab, when the Christmas rain-clouds gather black on the 
horizon, and on them, above the rolling, brick-strewn ridges of 
Old Delhi, rises a thin shaft of light — the Kutb Minir, the finest 
pillar in the world. 

It was built by the Turki slave Eibuk, and one can forgive him 
much in that he left the world such a thing of beauty to be a joy 
for ever. 

And yet as one stands beneath it, marking here and there the 
half-obliterated traces of previous cutting on the stones of the 
wonderful tapering pillar, all corbeilied with encircling balconies, 
and banded in dexterous art with interlaced lettering; as one looks 
round on the dismantled ruins of still more ancient temples, the 
mind suddenly ceases to give the glory to Kutb-ud-din, and turns 
almost with amaze to the thought of the Hindu architects who 
built it to order out of their dishonoured shrines. 

Think of it ! Art, true Art rising superior to Self ! Surely as they 
chiselled at those interlaced attributes of the One Unknowable, 
Unthinkable, they must have been conscious that though all things 
in this life were — as their religion told them — but Illusion, behind 
£hat Illusion lay Reality. 



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The- Middle Age . 

» their work comforted them, 
iow much of India is built into this watch tower of her gods ? 
i best of her, anyhow, and English civilisation can scarcely add 
an additional story to this record of her past. 

To Kutb-ud-din Eibuk, however, belongs the glory of inception ; 
therefore also some forgiveness, which, in truth, he sorely needs. 
For from the beginning his attitude towards strict morality is, to 
say the least of it, doubtful. He was a beautiful Turki slave, the 
avowed pet and plaything of his master Shahab-ud-din, who gave 
him " his particular notice, and daily advanced him in confidence 
and favours." 

He appears to have been diplomatic, for on one occasion, being 
questioned by the king as to why he had divided his share of a 
general distribution of presents amongst the other retainers, he 
kissed the ground of Majesty's feet, and replied, that being amply 
supplied already by that Majesty's favours, he desired no 

This brought him the Master of the Horse-ship, from which he 
went on to honour after honour, until in the year a.d. i 193 he was 
left as viceroy in India. Thenceforward he was practically king. 
It was he who took Delhi after a conflict in which the river Jumna 
ran red with blood. It was he who commanded the forces at 
Etawah, and it was his hand which shot the arrow that, piercing 
the eye of the Benares Rajah, cost him his life and the loss of 
everything he possessed. 

A quaint picture that, by the way, of the search for Jai-Chund's 
body amidst the huge heaps of the slain, and its final recognition 
after weary days by "the artificial teeth fixed by golden wires." 
Had dentistry got as far in the West, I wonder ? 

Then it was Kutb-ud-din who presented to his master the three 
hundred elephants taken at Benares ; amongst them the famous 
white one which refused to kneel like the others before the 
J^Plechcha^ king though he might be. The beast's independence 
serving him better than a man's would have done, since it brought 
no punishment, but the honour of being pad elephant to the 
viceroy thenceforth. 

And it was he who marched his forces hither and thither, 
" engaged the enemy, put them to flight, and having ravaged the 
country at leisure, obtained much booty." 

The eye wearies over the repetitions of this formula, as the hand 
Jurns the pages of Ferishta's history, while the heart grows sick 


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The Slave Kings 107 

at the thought of what such a war of conversion or extermination 
meant in those days. 

The victorious procession of the Mahomedan troopers was only 
broken once in Guzerat. Here Kutb-ud-din, despite six wounds, 
fought stubbornly and with his wonted courage, until forced by his 
attendants from the field, and carried in a litter to the fort at Ajmir, 
where he managed to hold out until reinforcements came to his 
aid from the King of Ghuzni. 

Defeat seems ever to have been the moth er of victory with these * , o 
passionate, revengeful Afghans, for on the very next occasion on * I 
which Kutb-ud-din " engaged the enemy," he is said to have killed 
fifty thousand of them, and to have gathered into- his treasury 
vast spoils. 

Nothing seemed to stop him. Even the swift assassination by 
his own prime minister of a cowardly rajah who was coming to 
terms with the Aflechcha instead of resisting the Unclean to the 
death, did not avail to preserve almost impregnable Kalunjur ; for 
a spring incontinently dried up in the fort, and there once more 
was one last sally, and then death for the garrison. 

It was in a.d. 1205, after Kutb-din had had twelve years of 
battles, murders, and sudden deaths, twelve years of absolute if 
not nominal kingship, that Mahomed Shahab-ud-din's successor, 
feeling himself not strong enough to assume the reins of govern- 
ment in India, made a bid for peace for himself in Ghuzni by 
sending Eibuk the slave, the drums, the standards, the insignia of 
royalty, and the title of King of India. 

Eibuk received them all with " becoming respect," and was duly 
crowned. This fact did not prevent his being crowned again in 
Ghuzni the following year ! 

He then, having attained to the height of his ambition, seeing 
no more worlds to conquer, having for the time being crushed even 
Rajput resistance, gave himself up "unaccountably to wine and 

This seems to have irritated the good citizens of Ghuzni. They 
invited another claimant to the throne to try his luck. He came, 
found Eibuk unprepared, possibly drunk. Anyhow, there was 
no time to attempt a defence. He fled to Lahore, thus finally 
severing the Kingship of Ghuzni from that of India. 

There, we are told, he became "sensible of his folly," repented, 
and thereinafter "continued to exercise justice, temperance, 


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108 The Middle Age 

He was killed while playing ckaugan (the modern polo) in A.D. 
1210. At that time he was supposed to be the richest man in the 
world ; but, unlike Mahmud, he was generous. " As liberal as 
Eibuk " is still a phrase in the mouth of India. 

His son Ar&m (Leisure) appears to have deserved his name. 
He never gripped the kingdom, and lost it fatuously after less 
than a year. Apparently he was not deemed worth the killing, 
and Altimish, a favourite slave of the slave Eibuk, took his place 
by virtue of being son-in-law to the dead king. 

Alt&mish was also of Turki extraction. As a youth, the fame 
of his beauty and talents was noised abroad, and Shah&b-ud-din 
was in the bidding for him, but hung back at the price ; where- 
upon Eibuk the Lavish put down the fifty thousand pieces of 
silver, and carried off the prize. 

Years after, he was married to the Princess-Royal, and so, 
adding Shums-ud-din (Sword of the Faith) to his name, ascended 
the throne, and reigned for no less than twenty-six years. 

So Delhi, indeed, was founded by slaves ! 

Atlamish appears to have been of the regulation type. He was, 
so to speak, Kutb-ud-din and water. The largest number of Hindus 
he is recorded to have killed at one time is three hundred ; a sad 
falling-off in GMzi-dom. 1 On the other hand, he was the barbarian 
who, taking Ujjain, destroyed the magnificent temple of Mahi- 
Kali which it had taken three hundred years to build. The idols 
thereof, and also a " statue of Vikramaditya, who had been formerly 
prince of this country, and so renowned that the Hindus have 
taken an era from his death," were conveyed solemnly to Delhi, 
and there broken at the door of the great mosque of which the 
magnificent ruins — spoils of many a Jain and Hindu temple — still 
lie about the foot of the Kutb Minir, a monument to the slave 
Eibuk who commenced it, the slave Alt&mish who finished it. 

This solemn smashing was doubtless a fine ceremony, yet as 
we of the present day contemplate it, regret goes forth, especially 
for the statue of Vikramadjit. How many a riddle might it not 
have solved concerning the Unknown King ! 

We are told that AMmish was an " enterprising, able, and good 
prince" ; he has, however, another, and in the history of the world, 
quite unique claim to regard. The father of seven children, six 
of them in turn mounted the throne with more or less success. 

Considerably less as regards the first occupant, Ruku-ud-din 
i A Gbazi is the title of honour given to one who has killed the infidel. 


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The Slave Kings 109 

(Prop of the State), who spent his six months and twenty-eight 
days tenancy in lavishing his inherited treasures on dancing girls, 
pimps and prostitutes. 

This might have been borne for longer, but the hideous cruelties 
of his mother, a Turki slave to whom he entrusted the reins of 
government, were such as to rouse even the dull humanity of 
a thirteenth-century Mahomedan. She had murdered horribly 
every one of the dead king's women, and had begun on his son's, 
when the patience of the various viceroys gave way. They 
entered into a conspiracy, deposed the king, and threw his 
mother into prison — a lenient punishment for such a monster of 

And then ? Then they did a thing unheard of in Indian history 
— they raised a woman to the throne. 

But Sultana Razia Begum was no ordinary mortal ! Indeed, 
there is something so quaint about the recapitulation of her virtues, . 
as given in the pages of Ferishta, that, perforce, one cannot but 1 
quote it. 

" Razia Begum (my Lady Content) was possessed of every good | 

quality which usually adorns the ablest princes ; and those who / 

scrutinise her actions most severely, will find in her no fault but ' 
that she was a woman." 

Alas ! Poor Lady Content ! Of what avail that you changed 
(as it is solemnly set down) your apparel ; that you abandoned 
the petticoat in favour of the trews ; that your father when he 
appointed you regent during one of his long absences, defended 
his action by saying that though a woman, you had a man's head 
and heart, and were worth more than twenty such sons as he 
had ? All this was of no avail against womanhood. Let this be 
thy comfort, poor shade of a dead queen, that the argument still 
holds good against thy sisters in this year of grace 1907 ! / P * 

Setting this aside, the career of Queen-Content matches in l*V; 
tragedy that of Mary Queen of Scots. A clever girl, evidently, 
her father made her his companion, and while her brothers were 
dicing and wenching, drinking and twanging the sutara y she was 
frowning with him over endless pacifications, endless violences, 
becoming, apparently, an adept at both. For it would have needed 
great qualifications to ensure the almost unanimous vote of the 
nobles which placed a woman on the throne. 

At first even these contemptuous Mahomedans were satisfied. 


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no The Middle Age 

Then came discontent. Did Razia Begum really favour the 
Abyssinian slave whom she allowed — horribili dictu ! — to " lift her 
on her horse by raising her up under the arms"? Or had she 
really forgotten the petticoat in the trews? Who can say? All 
we know is that Malik- Altunia, the Turki governor of Bhatinda — 
curious how that name crops up in all the really exciting tales of 
Indian history ! — revolted on the plea of the queen's partiality to 
the Abyssinian ; that she marched against the rebel, leading her 
troops ; that a tumultuous conflict occurred in the old place of 
battles, in which the Abyssinian favourite was killed, the queen 
taken prisoner, and sent to Altunia's care in the fort. 

So far good. But here affairs take a turn which is fairly breath- 
less, and which gives pause for doubting Altunia's disinterested 
care for morality and les convenances. 

He promptly married the empress, and with scarce a comma, 
we find him raising an army to espouse her cause, and fighting 
her battles, the Bothwell of his time. He failed, and he and 
bis wife were put to death together on the 14th of November 
A.D. 1239. 

. £. tragic tale indeed 1 Best finished by another excerpt from 

~ historian. 

"The reign of Sultana Razia Begum lasted three years, six 
months, and six days. Those who reflect on the fate of this 
unfortunate princess will readily discover from whence arose the 
foul blast that blighted all her prospects. — What connection exists 
\, between the high office of Amir-ul Omra and an Abyssinian slave ? 
Or how are we to reconcile the inconsistency of the queen of so 
vast a territory fixing her affections on so unworthy an object?" 

And no one, apparently, remembered that she herself was the 
daughter of a Turki slave who achieved empire. 

Byram was the next brother to ascend the throne. The two 

years, one month, and fifteen days before he also " sipped the 

t cup of fate" is a welter of crimes. Enemies were trodden under 

foot of elephants, slaves suborned to feign drunkenness and 

assassinate friends ; in short, " these proceedings, without trial 

or public accusation, justly alarmed every one," so Masud, the 

next brother, had his innings. A poor one, though it lasted twice 

as long as Byram's. He found time in it, however, to repel the 

i first Moghul invasion by way of Tibet into Bengal. This was in 

V v A.D. 1244, and it was followed by a similar incursion the next 

'/ year, by way of Kandahar and Sinde. Masud seems to have 

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The Slave Kings in 

become imbecile over wine and women, and when deposed, was 
contemptuously allowed to live by his brother, Nasir-ud-din, the 
only one of Altamish's sons who appears to have been worth 
anything ; possibly because he had passed the whole of the 
last four reigns in prison! 

Adversity may be a hard, but she is a good taskmistress, and 
in Nasir-ud-din she had evidently good mettle on wjiich to work. 
He was a man, distinctly, of original parts, for while in prison 
he had always preferred supporting himself by his writings to 
accepting any public allowance ; a " whimsical habit " which he 
continued after he came to the throne. He was also almost 
scandalously moral according to the orthodoxy of the day in * 

refusing to have more than one wife, and in cutting down all 
outward show and magnificence on the ground that, being only 
God's trustee for the State, he was bound not to burden it with 
useless extravagance. * 

As he reigned for no less than twenty years, he had time to 
gather together the disjecta membrae of the Indian empire which 
Eibuk had built up, and which was fast coming to be a series of 
semi-independent provinces, and even once more to annex Ghuzni 
to the kingdom of Delhi. He followed his predecessors' example 
also in rousing yet again the Rajput resistance. During the 
previous reigns the clans had recovered themselves, and, from 
the Mahomedan point of view, needed a lesson. So some few 
thousands were killed in battle, some few hundred chiefs put 
to death, and innumerable smaller fry condemned to perpetual 
slavery. And yet a story is told of Nasir-ud-din which shows 
him not devoid of heart. 

A worthy old scholar, criticising the king's penmanship, pointed 
out a fault. He, smiling, erased the word, but when the critic 
was gone, began to restore it, remarking that it was right, but it 
was better to spoil paper than the self-confidence of an old man. . 

He died, after a long illness, in ajx 1266, and thereinafter Ghiass- A » ' J s 
ud-din the waztf, who had married a sister of Sultana Razia's, * *- 
ascended the throne, possibly in the absence of more direct heirs. 
He must have been nearly sixty at the time, for he died twenty-one 
years after in his eightieth year. ^ 

He also was a Turki slave, first employed as falcon-master by 
Altamish, who promoted him again and again ; wherefore, Heaven 
knows, for history gives us but a poor character of him. He 
appears to have been a pious, narrow-minded, intolerant, selfish 
tyrant, with a hypocritical dash of virtue about him which tor' 

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1 N 

112 The Middle Age 

in his world completely. Circumstances also aided him in posing 
as perfection ; for about this time the Moghul invasion had reached 
the western borderlands, and hundreds of illustrious and literary 
fugitives crowded thence, to find in Delhi the only stable Mahomedan 

These, flattering and fawning, helped to noise his fame abroad 
as a paragon. Then the son of his old age, Prince Mahomed, 
was a potent factor in his popularity. The apple of his father's 
eye, he seems to have been an Admirable Crichton, and his death, 
in the moment of victory, not only " drew tears from the meanest 
soldier to the General," but came as a final blow to the old 
king, " who was so much distressed that life became irksome to 
him. ,, 

This great affection between father and son — for " Prince 
Mahomed always behaved to him with the utmost filial affection 
and duty"^is, indeed, the one human interest of a life devoted 
to pious pretences, to pomp and pose. 

His grandson K£ik-oMd came to the throne at his death, and 
promptly gave the reins to pleasure and the guidance of public 
affairs to his wazir. He succeeded in painting Old Delhi very 
red indeed during his short reign of three years. " Every shady 
grove was filled with women and parties of pleasure, every street 
rang with riot and tumult ; even the magistrates were seen drunk 
in public, and music was heard in every house." 

His minister kept him at this task also ; for, perceiving a faint 
check in the pursuit of pleasure, he " collected graceful dancers, 
beautiful women, and good singers from all parts of the kingdom, 
whom he occasionally introduced as if by accident." 

So, finally, the three-year-old Prince Kei-omurs — the only child 
of a miserable father who was now paralytic— was smuggled out 
of the harem to be King-designate, while the wretched, debauched, 
half-dying man had his brains beaten out with bludgeons while 
he was lying on his bed helpless ; and so, battered out of all 
recognition, his body was hastily rolled up in the bed-clothes, 
and flung through the window into the sliding river. 

A horrid tale, with which the history of the Slave Kings fitly 
comes to an end. 

They were not a good breed. Even Ferishta the historian, 
who has a weakness for kings, feels this, for he ends his account 
of them with the sphinx-like remark : " Eternity belongs only 
to God, the great Sovereign of the Earth I " 


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A.D. 1288 TO A.D. I398 

As can easily be imagined, India at the end of those ten Slave 
reigns (which between them lasted but eighty-two years) was a very 
different place to what India had been when Eibuk's iron hand 
first closed on it. Half the Punjab, almost all Rajputana, and 
the better part of the United Provinces, had run red with. Hindu 
blood in those days ; but as the stream subsided, the terrible 
legacy of the flood had remained as a leason welding the whole 
land into apathetic acquiescence, until absorption set in with the 
years, and as time went on, the crushed, half- dead organism 
began once more to feel life in its veins. For Hinduism is India 
— India is Hinduism. When the last trace of the metaphysical 
Monism which underlies every aspiration, every action, has dis- 
appeared, India and Hinduism will have disappeared also, but 
not till then. 

So as time crept on, and under slack rule Mahomedan began 
to fight Mahomedan, each petty governor playing for his own 
hand, his own independence, the Rajputs raised their dejected 
heads, and, seizing every opportunity, strove to recover part at 
least of their own. Gwalior with its rock, — that almost impregnable 
fort — for instance, changed hands many times, and, save during 
the reign of Nasir-ud-din, no attempt was made on the part of 
the Mahomedans after the time of Altamish, either to increase 
their conquests, or do more than temporarily bolster up their 

Nor when the Slave dynasty ended, and one Jelal-ud-din, of the 

I House of Khilji, established himself on the throne of Delhi by the 

I murder of the three-year-old KeJ-omurs, was there any change of 

policy. He was seventy years old ; old for kingship in any country, 

extraordinarily so for India. And he was weak, hesitating. For 

113 H 


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ii4 The Middle Age 

a while distracted by feeble remorse he refused royal honours, 
and after a very short time delegated his authority to his nephew, 
Allah-ud-din, who succeeded him, and who for many years prior 
to his uncle's death arrogated to himself almost absolute 

The seven years of Jelal-ud-din's reign, then, are but a prelude 
to Allah-ud-din's twenty. 

A vigorous man this, and an unscrupulous. One of his first 
emprises was the conquest of the Dekkan which, as yet, had 
been untouched by Mahomedan adventure. 

He got no further, however, than Deogtri, the capital of the 
Maharajah of the Mahrattas. Far enough, however, for pillage 
ct la Kutb-din-Eibuk. He found the Rajputs unprepared — they 
had strict scruples of honour regarding the necessity for a formal 
declaration of war, by which their adversaries were not bound 
— and the usual slaughter took place. For the first time, also, 
mention is made of merchants being tortured to make them 
disclose their treasures. " Dappetit vient en mangeant? and a 
rich Hindu banya was to the Mahomedan what the Jew was to 
a Crusader. 

The result was prodigious. Allah-ud-din left Deogiri — surely 
misnamed thus the " Shelter of the Gods "—with " 2,400 pounds 
weight of pearls, 12 pounds of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and 
sapphires, 6,000 pounds of silver, 4,000 pieces of silk, besides a 
long list of other precious commodities to which reason forbids 
us to give credit." In truth, reason appears as it is somewhat 
over-taxed ! 

It was on Allah-ud-din's return from this campaign that he 
perpetrated the foulest murder of Indian history ; and that means 

His expedition had been absolutely unauthorised by his uncle, 
the king, who, almost dotingly affectionate though inwardly 
relieved at his favourite's success, was persuaded to ask on Allah- 
ud-din's return for explanations, and express displeasure. The 
latter feigned remorse, went so far as to hint that the excess of 
his regret might put an end to his melancholy life ; so lured the 
old man to meet him on the banks of the river Ganges, where the 
villain halted, fearful, he protested, of just punishment. The king, 
deceived, crossed the river in the Royal Barge almost unattended, 
bidding those who did accompany him unbuckle swords lest the 
beloved prodigal might take affright. He reached the landing- 


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The Tartar Dynasties 115 

stage, and found Allah-ud-din backed by trusty friends. The old 
man advanced,* the prodigal fell at his feet, to be raised with 
almost playful tenderness. " Lo ! " said the tremulous old voice, 
as the tremulous old hand patted the villain's cheek, "how couldst 
thou fear me, Allah-hu? Did I not cherish thee from childhood ? 
Have I not held thee dearer than mine own sons?^ 

The words had hardly left his lips, the first step hand-in- 
hand towards the Royal Barge had hardly been taken, when 
Allah-ud-din gave the signal. The feeble old man was thrown 
down. One cry, " Oh, Allah-ud-din, Allah-ud-din ! * and all was 
over. His head, transfixed on a spear-point, was paraded about 
the city, and his murderer, making a pompous and triumphant 
entry into Delhi, ascended the throne in the Ruby Palace, and 
thereinafter utilised part of his loot by spending it on magnificent 
shows, grand festivals, and splendid entertainments, "by which 
the unthinking rabble were made to forget in gaiety all memory 
of their former king, or of the horrid crime which had placed 
the present one on the throne." 

So much for Allah-ud-din's accession. His reign is literally 
crammed full of picturesque incidents, and would almost require 
a volume to itself. Before attempting a few details, there is one 
tale of Jelal-ud-din's which deserves record — that of the Mysterious 
Stranger. He was called Sidi — Dervish Sidi. He appeared in 
Delhi suddenly, opened a large house, and commenced to dis- 
tribute charity on a scale of magnificence which led instantly to 
the belief that he must possess the philosopher's stone. He thought 
nothing of giving three thousand pieces of gold in casual relief to 
some noble but distressed family. Every day he expended about 
8,000 pounds of flour, 400 pounds of meat, with sugar, spices, and 
butter in proportion to feed the poor, while he lived on rice alone, 
and foreswore both wine and women. So, after a time, his influence 
almost exceeding that of Majesty itself, he was accused of high 
treason, and by the king's orders condemned to the ordeal by 

It was to be carried out coram populi. On the plain between 
the town and the river all preparations were made : a circle round 
the blazing pile to give fair view to the populace ; Sidi Dervish, 
and his companions in suspicion, saying their prayers ; then, at 
the last moment, objection raised and upheld by learned doctors 
thajt such ordeals were contrary both to the law of God and 
against Reason. So Sidi Dervish and his friends are being hauled 


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off to prison once more, until the foiled king gives a hint to 
some shaven monks hard by : " I leave him to you to be judged 
according to his deserts. ,, 

Cut down by the shaven ones' razors, Sidi offers no resistance, 
begs them to be expeditious in sending him to God, lays his 
curse heavily on the king and his posterity, and dies ; whereupon 
a black whirlwind rises and envelopes all for the space of half 
an hour. A terrifying end to one whose piety was unquestioned, 
but whose dogma was disturbing ; for Sidi Dervish held, we are 
told, " very peculiar opinions, and never attended public worship." 

A quaint, incomprehensible tale, surely, that reads true, and brings 
wonder as to who the poor man could possibly have been. 

To return to Allah-ud-din. One of the most picturesque stories 
of Rajput history is associated with his name : the story of the 
Princess Padmani and the first sack of Chitore — that terrible 
happening which still haunts the memory of the race, and provides 
its ultimate inviolable oath, " By the sin of the sack of Chitore. ,, 

Padmani, then, was peerless. Her very name survives to the 
present day as synonymous with perfect womanhood. And Allah- 
ud-din — who seems to have been eclectic in his pleasures — hearing 
of her beauty while still only commander-in-chief to his uncle, 
forced his way to the sacred stronghold of the Rajputs, and 
threatened instant attack if he were not allowed to see her, if it 
were only her reflection in a mirror. Now such hardy, yet in a 
way honourable, requests were not foreign to the Rajput spirit, 
and Rajah Bhim-si, her husband, granted it. With due pomp 
and ceremonial he escorted Allah-ud-din to his palace, with due 
pomp and ceremony showed him the reflection of the most 
beautiful woman in India, with due pomp and ceremony escorted 
the Mahomedan general back to his tents, trusting to his honour. 
But Allah-ud-din's honour was a mutable quantity : he seized the 
husband as ransom for the wife, and swore instant death if the 
princess were not delivered to him without delay. So forth from 
the frowning rock came seven hundred litters, Padmani and her 
women offering themselves up in exchange for a life that was the 
dearest thing on earth to every Rajput man and woman. Into the 
camp they came ; and then ? Then each litter belched out reckless 
manhood armed to the teeth ; each disguised litter-bearer threw 
off his swathing shawl and proclaimed himself warrior. 

So the husband was brought back to the wife, and in the 
ensuing battle the Rajputs died hard. There is a story of how 


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The tartar Dynasties \ij 

one widow of the slain, standing with foot ready to mount the , 
funeral pyre of her dead hero, called in a loud voice to the page 
who had followed him in the fight : 

"Boy! Tell me once more ere I go how bore himself my 

" As reaper of the harvest of battle ! On the bed of honour, he 
spread a carpet of the slain, whereon, a barbarian his pillow, he 
sleeps ringed about by his foes." 

" Yet once again, oh boy, tell me how my lord bore himself ?* 

" Oh mother ! Who can tell his deeds ! He left none to fear \ ) 
or to praise ! " _ 

The memory of Padmani's trick rankled. After ascending the 
throne Allah-ud-din returned to Chitore. Up till then, a.d. 1303, 
the fort was maiden, had been held unassailable, impregnable. 
But Allah-ud-din was rich beyond belief. He gave gold for every 
basket of earth brought to raise the pile, whence, overtopping the 
rock, he could pour his missiles into the doomed city. 

Night and day, day and night through the long hot weather 
the baskets worked, the gold was paid, until the end drew near. 

The tale which is still told round many a watch-fire runs that 
one night Rajah Bhim-si, to whom twelve sons had been born by 
the beautiful Padmani, woke in fear. Before him, in a lurid 
light, stood Vyan-Mata, the tutelary goddess of his race. " I 
am hungry," she wailed. " Lo ! I drink Rajput blood, but I am 
hungry for the blood of kings. Let me drink the blood of 
twelve who have worn the diadem, and my city may yet be 

So one by one eleven of the young princes were raised to the 
throne. Then, after three days' reign, they went forth to meet 
the foe, to meet fate. 

But the youngest, Prince Ajey-si, was the darling; so when 
his turn came, his father's heart failed him, and he called his 
chiefs together. " The child shall go free to recover what is lost. 
I will be the twelfth king to die for Chitore." 

" Yea — we will die for Chitore, ,> was the reply. 

So each Rajput man put on the bridal coronet and the saffron 
robe, and every Rajput woman her wedding garment. And when 
the dawn came, the city gates were set wide, and through them 
poured desperate manhood surrounding a little knot of picked 
heroes who had sworn to see the child safe ; while from behind 
rose up on the still morning air a column of smoke from the 


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ri8 the Middle Age 

vast funeral pyre on which desperate women had sought the 
embrace of death in the dark vaults and caves which honeycomb 
the rock, and which, since that fatal day, have never been entered 
but once by mortal man. Their very entrance is now forgotten. 

So runs the story. This, at least, is fact : the great Sacrifice 
of Honourable Death — the Joh&r — was performed at Chitore, and 
Allah-ud-din, entering victorious, found a silent city. 

Given an unscrupulous man, possessed of boundless wealth, 
and all things are possible in a country distracted by jealousies 
as India was at this time. And all things were achieved. The 
frequent incursions, growing year by year on larger scale, of the 
Moghuls who had already gained foothold to the west and north, 
were repelled. The Dekkan was finally conquered and annexed 
by the king's worthless slave and favourite, the eunuch Kafur, a 
man whose life was one long tale of infamy. Originally the seat 
of the great Andhra dynasty, the Dekkan, divided into many 
principalities, had passed into many hands. In the seventh 
century King Harsha had attempted to gather it into his empire, 
but had been foiled by the skill of Pulikgsin the king, during 
whose reign the wonderful caves in the Ajanta valley were 
excavated and adorned. 

Another dynasty, another king in the eighth century gave to 
the Dekkan the marvellous rock-cut temple at Ellora. At first 
a stronghold of the Jain religion, it oscillated between that and 
Brahmanism, until in the twelfth century the latter finally came 
uppermost with the Haysala line of kings. 

It was in a.d. 1310 that Kafur swept through the kingdom, 
despoiled the capital, laid waste the country, and carried off the 
reigning Rajah, though its final absorption in the Mahomedan 
empire was not until a.d. 1327. Kafur, however, set his mark 
so far south as Adam's Bridge, opposite Ceylon, the furthest 
point yet reached by any northern invasion. 

This was the zenith of Allah-ud-din's power. His health had 
yielded to intemperance of all kinds ; he became more and more 
despotic, more and more cruel, more and more under the baleful 
influence of his creature Kafur. 

Rebellion grew rife. Little Prince Ajey-si's heir, Hamir, recovered 
Chitore, Guzerat revolted, and almost ere it was annexed, the Dekkan 
rose and expelled half the Mahomedan garrison. 

These tidings coming to the already suffering king brought on 
paroxysms of rage, and he died, his end accelerated by poison 


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The Tartar Dynasties 119 

administered by that slave of his worst passions, Kafur. There- 
upon followed the usual murders and sudden deaths of an Indian 
succession, followed by the death of Kafur, and the final enthroning 
of Allah-ud-din's third son, Mobarik. He was a weak sensualist, 
who, nevertheless, was human. So he removed some of his father's 
more oppressive taxes, and did away with his .restrictions on trade 
and property. After which he and his creature Khushru, a con- 
verted Hindu slave, outraged all decency, and gave way to sheer 
dissolute devilry, which ended in the master's murder by his 
favourite, who thereinafter snatched at the crown. 

But this man even the Mahomedan India of the time could not 
stand. Mobarik, " whose name and reign would be too infamous 
to have a place in the records of literature, did not our duty as 
historian oblige us to the disagreeable task," was bad enough. 
Khushru was worse. So he was killed, and a worthy warrior, by «. y J 
name Ghazi-Beg Toghluk, who had repelled many invasions of * ~ 
Moghuls, was invited to the throne. w 

Ferishta's description of this is rather nice, and bears quotation : 

"So they presented him with the keys of the city, and he 
mounted his horse and entered Delhi in triumph. When he came 
in sight of the Palace of a Thousand Minarets" (this must have 
been somewhere close to the Kutb) " he wept, and cried aloud : / 

" ' Oh, subjects of a great empire ! I am no more than one of ' 
you who unsheathed my sword to deliver you from oppression, and j 
rid the world of a monster. If, therefore, any member of the royal ^ 
family remain, let him be brought, that we his servants should , **' 
prostrate ourselves before his throne. But if none of the race of 
kings have escaped the bloody hands of usurpation, let the most 
worthy be selected, and I swear to abide by the choice.'" 

Not a bad speech. Small wonder that there followed on it the 
first historical notice of "chairing" — "the populace, laying hold 
of him, raised him up, carried him to the throne, and hailed him as 
Shahjahan, Master of the World ; but he chose the more modest 
title of Ghiass-ud-din. . . ." 

For the curse of Sidi Dervish had been effectual, and the House 
of Khilji was extinct. 

Warned by the past, one of the first acts of Ghiass-ud-din 
was formally to nominate his successor from amongst his four 
sons. He made an unfortunate choice, for there is little doubt but 
that Prince Jonah was accessory to his father's death four years 


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120 The Middle Age 

afterwards, when he invited him into a wooden palace which 
promptly fell upon, and crushed the king and five of his attendants. 

Neither was Prince Aluf-Khan — under which title Jonah became 
heir -apparent— a lucky choice in other ways. He lost a large 
army in attempting to regain Deogiri, and was not particularly 
successful against the Rajputs. The king, meanwhile, spent most 
of bis energy in building a new citadel at Delhi, the ruins of which 
still survive under the name of T6ghlukabad. A fine, massive 
piece of work it must have been, with its huge blocks of dressed 
stone and curiously sloping walls, reminding one of a modern 

So with the death of honest Ghiass appears the typical Eastern 
potentate, complete as to arrogance, cruelty, power, and pride, who 
for seven-and-twenty years was to cry, " Off with his head ! " to 
any one he pleased. 

He seems to have been clever. We are told that he was the 
" most eloquent and accomplished prince of his time, and that he 
was not less famous for his gallantry in the field than for those 
accomplishments which render a man the ornament of private 

It sounds well, but, judged by his acts, it appears doubtful if pride 
and arrogance had not made Mahomed Toghluk partially insane. 
No other supposition explains the extraordinary contradictions of 
his rule. He "established hospitals and almshouses for widows 
and orphans on the most liberal scale," but " his punishments were 
not only rigid and cruel, but frequently unjust. So little did he 
hesitate to spill the blood of God's creatures, that one might have 
supposed his object was to exterminate the human species." On 
more than one occasion, going out for a royal hunt, he suddenly 
announced his intention of hunting men, and not beasts ; so the 
unoffending peasantry were driven in by the beaters and slain as 
if they were blackbuck. He imagined and started vast schemes 
for conquering China and Persia, in order to enrich his coffers, 
yet bribed a Moghul invasion to return whence it came by a huge 
subsidy which completely crippled him. He attempted to face 
famine — one of the worst India has ever known — by projects for 
agricultural improvements, and then added to the horrors and 
distress by ordering Delhi to be evacuated, and its inhabitants 
on pain of death to migrate with his court to Deogiri, which he 
rechristened Dowlutabad, or the "Abode of Wealth." He founded 
an admirably regulated postal system throughout the country, but 


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The Tartar Dynasties 121 

the roads themselves were bad, and absolutely unsafe for travellers. 
He tried to escape insolvency by coining copper at silver values — 
the first instance of token money in India — then fell upon his people 
tooth and nail because the public credit was not stable enough to 
stand the strain.* Consequently, vast tracts of land were left 
uncultured, whole families fled to the woods to subsist on rapine 
and murder, while famine desolated wide provinces. 

But the potentate remained a potentate. So strong was his grip 
on the people, that when, after having once been allowed to return 
to Delhi he again ordered them to Dowlutabad, they obeyed, 
leaving " the noblest metropolis, the Envy-of-the- World, a resort 
for owls, and a dwelling-place for the beasts of the desert." 

Thus it was not the hand of an assassin, but a surfeit of fish 
which eventually carried him off. This much may be said in his 
favour — he was no sensualist. +- 

He was succeeded by his cousin Fer6ze in A.D. 135 1, who until J > ' 
his death, at the great age of ninety, in A.D. 1388, bent his whole . ^ 
mind towards restoring peace and prosperity to his distracted ' 
empire ; which, while the largest, nominally, that India had ever 
seen, was in reality at the breaking-up point from sheer disorder. 
His great panacea appears to have been irrigation, and many an 
old canal in India dates from the time of Fer6ze Toghluk. Despite 1 
his efforts, however, the empire began to disintegrate. The Dekkan / 
and Bengal gained independence by the reception of ambassadors 
at court, and various smaller states seceded into autonomy. India ) 
was, in fact, at this time semi- fluid, half-gelatinous . Its form was e 
for ever changing. Each principality at one moment, amoeba-like, 
reached out an invertebrate arm and clutched at something, the 
next it had shrunken to a mere piece of jelly, quiescent, almost 
lifeless. And Fer6ze Toghluk's hand was not strong enough for 
the task set it. Yet he was a good and kindly soul, as is evidenced 
by the resolutions which he caused to be engraven on the mosque 
he built at Fer6zebad (another portion of Old Delhi). In one 
he abolished judicial mutilation, claiming that God in His goodness 
having conferred on him the power, had also inspired him with % 
the disposition to end these cruelties. Another orders the repeal ^ 
of many vexatious taxes and licences. Yet another reduced the 
share of war plunder due to the sovereign from four-fifths to one- , 
fifth, while it increased that of the troops to four-fifths from one. /j 
A fourth recorded his determination to pension for life all soldiers 
invalided by wounds or by age. A fifth declared his intents 


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122 The Middle Age 

of severely punishing " all public servants convicted of corruption, 
as well as persons who offer bribes." The latter being a nicety in 
legal morality which one would hardly expect of the fourteenth 

Feroze was followed in about six years by no less than five kings 
whose only record of interest is that they stood by and watched 
the great empire which Kutb-ud-din Eibuk had wrested from the 
Rajputs, and which Allah-ud-din had consolidated by sheer tyranny, 
fall to bits. Anarchy reigned supreme, civil war raged everywhere, 
and in Delhi itself two nominal kings were in arms the one against 
the other when, in A.D. 1398, news came that for an instant checked 
^quarrel, and made all India hold its breath. 

The Moghuls, under Timur, on their way to Delhi, had crossed 
the Indus. The long-dreaded, ofttimes-delayed invasion had come 
at last. 


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A.D. 1388 TO A.D. 1389 

There is one cry of terror which from time immemorial has 
echoed out over the wide wheatfields of Northern India. Some- 
times it has come when the first sword-points of the new-sprouted 
seed give a green shading to the sandy soil, and the flooding water 
from the wells which cease not night or day follows obedient to 
the naked brown figure with a wooden spud which directs it first 
to one patch of corn, then to another. Sometimes, again, it has 
come when the village has emptied itself upon the harvest field, 
when men are cutting and threshing, and women winnowing, 
while the children lie asleep in the great heaps of chaff, or make 
quaint images out of the straw. 

At times, again, but not often, it has cpme, as it did in the 
Mutiny days, when the bare burnt fields lie idle, resting against 
next crop-season, and the peasant women sit outside the breath- 
less village, picking and carding and spinning. But the cause 
is always the same : a knot of hurried horsemen showing on 
the level horizon, messengers, as it were, from the outside world 
beyond village ken. 

"The Toork! The Toork!" rises the cry, and in an instant 
jewels are torn off and hidden, everything that can be concealed 
concealed, and with a wild prayer to some god for protection, the 
ultimate atom of India awaits destruction or dishonour or death in 
apathetic despair. 

It must have needed a bitter biting indeed to have engraven 
this fear so indelibly on the Hindu heart. 

Yet looking back on the four hundred years of Mahomedan 
inroads which, we have just followed, small wonder can be felt at 
the persistence of this terror. How many times had not this knot 
of horsemen appeared, done their worst, and disappeared, leaving 



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1*4 The Middle Age . 

behind them miserable, dishonoured women, maddened by the sight 
of their murdered husbands, and the very dead boy-babies at 
A their breasts. 

A horrible legacy of fear, in truth ! 

And of late, in addition to the endless incursions of the 

Mahomedans proper, there had been persistent- appearances and 

reappearances of the yellow-skinned Moghuls. From north, from 

east, from west, this rising race had ridden, had ravaged, and 

f\ had returned whence they came. 

In truth they were more of a rising race than these poor 
' peasants knew ; more so than the effete monarchies and nobilities 
of Mahomedan India realised. Close on a hundred and fifty years 
f before, Chengiz Khan, a Moghul chief, had barbarously swept 
v ij through the plains of North-Western Asia, and now his descendant 
Timur — though born in comparatively civilised times, and by pro- 
fession a Mahomedan — was to carry on the destruction which his 
ancestor had begun. History hardly presents a more terrible 
personality than that of this man, as judged by the autobiography 
he left behind him. It is one of the most remarkable records ever 
written. Here is no mere rude barbarian, but a wily man of the 
world, ready to practise on every weakness of his fellows, ready 
with cant, with real devotion, full of courage as well as full of 
address, and with and through it all the most unscrupulous 
selfishness, the utmost admiration for his own perfidies. 

But he was a great man ; in his way, a genius. There is 
nothing in its way finer than the record he gives in this auto- 
} biography of his — which he entitles, "Political and Military 
Institutions of Tamarleng," or the Lame Timur — of his reasons 
for advancing on India, and his experiences there. 

" I ordered 1,000 swift-footed camels, 1,000 swift-footed horses, 
and i, coo swift-footed infantry to bring me word respecting the 
princes of India. I learnt that they were at variance one with 
the other. ... The conquest appeared to me easy, though my 
soldiers thought it dangerous. 

" Resolved to undertake it, and make myself master of the Indian 

"Did so." 

Brief to the point almost of bathos ; but surely a brevity which 
brings with it a shiver as at something inhuman in its strength. 

So in September 1398 the "admirably regulated horse and foot 
post* which Mahomed Toghluk had given to India, brought news 



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The Invasion of Timur 125 

that a huge host of Turks and Tartars and Moghuls, led by Timur i 
in person, had crossed the river Indus by a bridge of rafts and \ 

The tidings seem to have brought about no concerted action 
in India. It was too much given over to anarchy for cohesion. 
And so the celebrated march of the " Lame Firebrand of the 
World " began in earnest. 

It is a horrid record of brutal butchery. As if fascinated by 
some unholy spell, the inhabitants of India seem to have yielded * 
their necks to the smiter, without, as Ferishta puts it, "making f 
one brave effort to save their country, their lives, or their I 
. property." ' 

yy * His first halt was at Talumba, a strong fort and city at the 
' ^ junction of the Chenab and the Ravi rivers. He plundered the 
town, but as the fort was strong, left it comtemptuously alone and 
went forward on his path of desolation and destruction. Not a 
village was left unburnt, not a male left alive, not a female 
rj unravished. The next pause was at a town famous for the shrine 

of a Mahomedan saint, for whose sake he spared the inhabitants, '^ 

and after (doubtless) saying his prayers, dutifully pressed on to ^ 

^ ^Jfthatnfr, the headquarters of the Great Lunar Race of Rajputs. 

s\ m j» This he reached in two days by forced marches, the last being 

A - one of close on ioo miles. Here his ferocity broke beyond 

\. < bounds. He slew by thousands the helpless country folk who had 

c - a fled for protection to their Rajah, and who, overcrowding the 

city, were hurdled together like sheep beyond its walls. The 

garrison gave battle, but, hard-pressed, sought refuge in the citadel, „ 

and Timur, gaining the gates of the town ere they could be shut, 

drove the unfortunates from street to street. Overmastered by 

numbers, by sheer terror, the place capitulated on terms. To no (A 

purpose. For, even while the Tartar was receiving the delegates 

and accepting their presents, orders were given to sack and slay. 

Whereupon, struck with horror, with despair, the cry, " Joh&r ! 

Johar ! " arose from the men, wives and children were slain, and 

the Rajputs sought nothing but revenge and death. " The scene," \ 

says Ferishta, " was awful. The inhabitants in the end were cut 

off to a man, though not before some thousands of the Moghuls 

had fallen." 

This so exasperated Timur that every living soul in the city was 
massacred, and the place itself reduced to ashes. 
To Saraswati, to Fatehabad, to Rajpur, he carried his flaming 


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126 The Middle Age 


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sword ; then at Kai'tul he rejoined the main body of his army — for 
he had only commanded a flying column hitherto — and settled 
his face fairly towards his goal — Delhi. 

But now abject fear was beforehand with him, and he marched 
through desolate fields, deserted houses, empty cities. 

A strange march of Death indeed ! The young green wheat 
showing green as ever, the hearth fires still burning bravely, the 
litter and leavings of human life lying about in the sunlight ; but 
life itself? — nowhere ! Everything, gold, gems, home, country left, 
but that had gone. It must have angered the horde of butchers to 
find no blood with which to wet their swords, to hear no piteous 
cries for mercy as they rode. The very hands must have grown 
listless as they gathered in the unresisting spoils. 

Perhaps that was the reason why Timur, arriving within touch of 
Delhi, sought to revive his soldiery by an order for the wholesale 
slaughter of all prisoners. 
£ And all this time at Delhi the puppet-king Mahmud, the last 
degenerate scion of the House of Toghluk, had sate in the massive 
palace of his forefathers, waiting. 

" Delhi dur ust." 

[" It is a far cry to Delhi."] 

This had been his hope as he waited. But early in January an 
old man — for Timur was now past sixty years of age, and his life 
had been a strenuous one — crossed the river with a small body of 
seven hundred horse, and calmly reconnoitered T6ghlukabad. 

Seven hundred horse only ! Mahmud took courage, sallied out 

with five thousand, was contemptuously driven within the walls 

again, until Timur, "having made the observations he wished, 

; repassed the river, and rejoined his army." 

, *> XA , A good general this, trusting to no Intelligence Department, but 

r* to his own eyes. 

That night the one thousand prisoners (the figure is that given 
by Mahomedan historians) were slain in cold blood. Next day, 
13th January, he and his army forded the river without opposition 
and entrenched themselves close to the gates of T6ghlukabad. 
Despising the astrologers, who pronounced the 15th of January 
to be an unlucky day, Timur chose it for his attack, and drew up 
his army in order of battle. His foes were barely worthy of such 
trouble. They certainly returned the challenge by marching out, 
elephants covered in mail, warriors in armour, pennants flying, 
drums sounding ; but at the first charge of Moghul horsemen, the 


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The Invasion of Timur 127 **/•/, 

elephants' drivers were unseated, and leviathan in terror fled to the t^i£^^^ 
rear, communicating confusion to the ranks. ■« ~> , 

So almost without a blow the Tartar found himself by nightfall^ fr*S * 
at the very gates of the city. J* 

A fateful night ! The king fled in it, the chief men in the city •//*> y 
resolved during it on submission, and were promised protection on /j 
payment of a heavy indemnity. 

Next morning, Timur was proclaimed Emperor in every mosque, 
guards were placed at Treasury and gates, and troops sent to 
enforce immediate payment. 

What followed may have been due to insubordination on the /^ * 
part of the pillaging soldiery ; on the other hand, it occurred far / jQp*z t 
too often in Timur's career to make us quite unsuspicious of' 
perfidy. Anyhow, whether by collision between the populace and 
the troops, or by mere wantoj^ioJ,ence, resistance was aroused even 
amid the panic-stricken inhabitants, and the greatest tragedy Delhi 
has ever seen began. Once more the cry, " Johar ! Johar! " echoed 
out helplessly, the gates were overpowered by mob-force and closed, 
the houses were set on fire, and while women and children perished 
in the flames, the men fought desperately to death in the streets, j 
hand to hand with their butchers. The lanes were barricaded by f 
the bodies of the dead, lives were sold dear, and a scene of carnage A 
beyond description ensued ; until the gates being once more forced, 
the whole Moghul army was let loose, to deal inevitable death on 
the almost unarmed crowd. 

Five days afterwards Timur offered up to God " his sincere and 
humble tribute of grateful praise for his victory " in the splendid 
mosque of marble which Fer6ze Toghluk had built on the banks 
of the Jumna. 

Once more we are reminded of that idle rhyme — 

11 Three thousand. Frenchmen sent below, 
Praise God from whom all blessings flow." 

The primitive passions change very little. 

After that he departed, his work accomplished, his task done. 
He took with him plunder inconceivable, and with a few minor » 
excursions to " put every inhabitant to the sword," made his way ; 
back to Samarkhund by the Kabul route. To the last exposing 
himself to every fatigue, every privation which he imposed upon 
liis army. 

So he quitted India, taking no trouble to make provision for hold- 


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k ;i28 The Middle Age 

ing the empire he had won. He left anarchy, famine, pestilence, 

/ / behind him. For two months Delhi was a city of the dead, and 

• f ' for thirty-six years India owned no government either in name 

: ! or in reality. Dazed, depopulated, despairing, she dreamt evil 

dreams — dreams almost worse than the nightmare of the past. 

No greater proof of the totality of TimuVs destruction is needed 
than this — a whole generation had to pass away ere men could be 
found with hope enough wherewith to face the future. 


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A.D. 1389 TO A.D. 1514 


FOR over a hundred and twenty" years India remained free from 
a master hand. It is true that the puppet-king Mahmud, who , 

had fled from Delhi on that fateful night of the 15th of January \ 0* 
1389, returned to it, first as a mere pensioner, afterwards as 
nominal ruler ; but the whole continent had split up into petty 
\ principalities gover "^ fry Mah^piAHan^rni^rg Guzerat, Malwa, I ^ r 
jKanauj, Oude, Karra, Jaunpur, Lah6re, Dipalpur, Multan, Byana, I J? ir " r 
/ Kalpi, Mahdba, these were but a few of the countless kings whqj 
[ rose up and warred with one another. 

Beyond these, again, to the southward, lay the great kingdom - . 
of the Dekkan, which one Allah-ud-jjia jiass an had reft bloodlessly y r , 
from Mahomed Toghluk. This Hassan had a curious history. 
The servant of a Brahman_asirologer, he appears to have lived 
a life absolutely without colour, until one day, when ploughing, 
the share caught in a chain attached to an old copper vessel 
full of antique gold coins. This treasure trove introduced him 
to the king's notice; he was made captain of a hundred horse, . 
so rose gradually to power. And wherever he went he took J 
with him his former master, the Brahman Gajjga*jatfl9j[png^vears yj/ 
before had predicted for him great distinction. When Hassan 
reached royalty, the Brahman became finance-minister, and from 
this fact the whole dynasty was called Bahmani, or Brihmani. ^*** 
It lasted for close on two hundred years ; a m j}jt lUUlSUaLgtobffity \ 
for India. But ere the period now before us had closed, the r 
Dekkan also had split up into five separate states — Bijapur, ; 
Golc6nda, Berar, Ahmudnagar, Hyderabad. 

About the time of Timur's invasion, the Brahmani dynasty 
was in the zenith of its fortunes. We have in the description 
of it, then, a picture of Eastern despotism that fits in with the 

129 1 


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130 The Middle Age 

preconceived ideas of most Westerns on this subject. Absolute 
power, untold wealth, munificence, cruelty, passion, pride, pre- 
judice ; all the concomitants of an Eastern potentate are there. 
The celebrated Turquoise Throne itself fills the imagination with 
its "enamel of a sky-blue colour, cased in gold which was in 
time totally concealed by the number of precious ornaments"; 
but when we add to this the golden ball over the throne "all 
inlaid with jewels, on which sate a tyrd of paradise composed 
entirely of precious stones, in whose head was a ruby of in- 
estimable price," we desire no more. The Eastern glamour is 

So the kings of the Dekkan went on ruling, every now and 

again letting themselves loose on some minor rajah, and killing 

a few thousand Hindus for the sake of the Faith ; every now 

and again ruling wisely and well, but as often as not badly and 

brutally. Sometimes they combined the epithets, as in the case 

of Mahomed Shah Bahmini, a.d. 1358-1375, during whose reign 

! it is said " all ranks of the people reposed in security and peace," 

/ and that "nearly five hundred thousand unbelievers fell by the 

swords of the warriors of Islam, by which the population of the 

A\ Carnatic was so reduced that it did not recover for several 

ages"! ! ! 

Some of these precious potentates died in their beds 2 a larger 
proportion of them were assassinated. This much, at any rate, 
may be said of Indian public opinion in these times, that it 
sided with ^ morality, for the most condign punishments on 
record are invariably meted out to the biggest villains. Perhaps 

x > ' / the most picturesque of these records is that concerning King 
JxJ> Ghiass-ud-din Bahmini and Lalchi, one of the principal Turki 

\ - * slaves of the household. This man possessed a daughter of 
exquisite beauty, whom the seventeen-year-old young monarch 
happened to see and instantly desired. The father refused, the 
king persisted. So Lalchi laid his plans. He invited the passion- 
struck lad to an entertainment at his house, plied him with wine, 
and then induced him to order his attendants to withdraw, in 
order that the exquisite beauty might appear. The half-intoxicated 
prince attempted flight when Lalchi returned from the harem 
not with a girl, but a naked dagger, rolled down some steps, 
and the* next instant both his eyes were blinded ; whereupon 
Lalchi coolly sent for the royal attendants one by one, as if 
by the king's order, and put them to death severally as they 



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Devastated India 131 

appeared. As these were mostly nobles and officials of high 
rank, he found no difficulty in deposing Ghiass-ud-din, who had 
only reigned for six weeks ! , « t ,, 

* The history of the Dekkan finds echo in the kingdoms of J ^ , 
f I Kandeish, Milwa, Guzer&t, all of which came into existence about J 
t j the same period. But in addition to these Mahomedan princi- 
-"s palities a great and powerful Rajput confederacy — for the semi- 
1 feudal system of the race was antagonistic to empire — was 
J springing up among the hills in Mewar, the " middle mountain " ] T 
country now called Oudipur, and in the deserts of M&rwar or s 
.^Jbfi,"JR§&ion of Death," now called Jodhpur and Jeysulmeer. | . $ 
* £ ~*"'The two former kingdoms were ruled by princes of the Sun, * />^ 
but Jeysulmeer claimed, as it does now, descent from the Moon, •? 

Such slight differences, however, were as naught before a common 
enemy, and ever since Mahmud of Ghuzni had defeated Anangpal, 
Lunar king of Delhi — representative of a dynasty which, legend 
has it, had lasted since the days of Yudishthira of Mih&bh&rata 
fame — down through the time when Mahomed Ghori had annihi- 
lated Prithvi - Raj, grandson of the last Anangpal, and Kutb-ud- 
din Eibuk, his Slave-general, had carried on his butchery, until 
the present day, the common enemy of every Rajput had been ^ ^ 
the Mahomedan. C 

So, naturally, the conflict of the conquerors was the opportunity A ^ \ 
of the vanquished. ~— ~, -- / 

It is true that the young Ajey-si, saved from the sack of Chitore At** *-' 
by so much bloodshed, did not fulfil his father's hope that the 
child should recover what the man had lost, but his appointed 
heir, Hamir, more than redeemed the promise ; for, during the 
two centuries following on the recapture of his kingdom, it rose 
to a pitch of power and solidarity never before touched, and 
received the homage of all surrounding principalities. The 
story of HannYs success is a strange one, and is reminiscent of --- 
the legend of Sir Gaw^ ajne , or the Knight^oXjCouttSsjf, since the / \ 
success came as a consequence of chivalry to wo manhood. ; 

Hamir's perseverance had brought him to the very walls of 
Chitore, but the real struggle for possession was before him. At 
this juncture the city gates opened, and a peaceful procession / 

passed out, bearing the recognised symbol of a marriage 
proposal, a cocoa-nut. It came from the mercenary but highwi » j ^ J 
born Hindu Governor of Chitore, offering his daughter as a V 
preliminary to peace. The young prince's advisers voted for a 


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132 The Middle Age 

return of the offer. Hamir bid its retention, boldly saying that, 
come what might, his feet would thus tread the rocky steps which 
>v his ancestors had trodden. 

' Forth, therefore, with but the stipulated five hundred horse, went 

the Bridegroom-Prince. He was met at the gate by the bride's 
five brothers, gloomy of face, solemn of mien. But on the city 
portal was no mystical triangle of marriage, no wedding garlands 
decorated the streets. Yet ceremony was not absent. The ancient 
hall of his ancestors was filled with chiefs awaiting him with 
folded hands ; the bride's father welcomed him gravely. One can 
imagine the young man, ready to take what the gods chose to 
give for the sake of a hold on Chitore, waiting while the bride 
was led forth. 

No cripple this ! The young heart must have breathed more 
freely as the slim, veiled figure stood silent by his side. A promise 
of beauty here, surely ! The young blood shivered through his 
veins, as the strong sword-hand met the soft, slender fingers ; 
then seemed to flow almost tumultously towards the new, the 
unknown, as the attendant priest knotted the marriage garments 
together. Yet still no smile, no word of congratulation. What 
did it mean ? What matter ! it was for the sake of Chitore. 

So to the marriage chamber, where the family priest lingered 
hesitatingly to preach patience. 

Patience ! with a bride before one, every fold of whose veiled 
figure told of beauty ! 

Beauty indeed ! but — one glance was enough — she was a 

He had been tricked indeed ! A virgin widow, no doubt, and 
beautiful, exceedingly; yet still a widow, and accursed, almost 

What did she say to him ? History does not tell us. All we 
v \ know is that "her kindness and vows of fidelity overcame his 

Doubtless, the pity which is akin to love swayed him, but it was 
her cleverness, and not her kindness that gained the victory. For 
that strange marriage night was spent in a woman teaching a man 
low to win back his ancestral kingdom. Not by war, that was 
N too crude. The people must be won over. Let her husband ask 
1 next morning as the marriage gift which no Rajput bridegroom 
is refused, for one J&l, a humble scribe of the city. 

jS.o Hamir went home burdened by a widow-wife and a scribe. 




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Devastated India i$$ 

A year passed, and a prince was born ; another year spent in 
what wiles and guiles only the widow mother and her scribe 
adviser knew, and the little prince, sick, had to be taken back to 
Chitore in order to be placed for healing before the shrine of 
Vyan-M&ta. Taken, oddly enough, while his grandfather, the 
mercenary governor, was away with most of the troops on an 
expedition. C**T*-*-\ 

A beautiful injured queen, a lovely baby prince, a hero husband % J^J^x^ 
ready to regain the throne of his ancestors, a devoted adherent 
prepared for every emergency ; these were the factors in the 
sudden acclaim by which Hamir, in consequence of his courtesy, 
was able once more to raise the standard of the Sun on the walls , 
of Chitore. Where it remained for long years gloriously, com-\ 
paratively peacefully; for while in Mahomedan Delhi no less, 
than twenty-five monarch s were needed — such was the perpetual v 
procession of assassinations, rebellions, dethronement — to bridge 
the period between Kutb-ud-din's seizure of Delhi and Timur's 
invasion of India, in Chitore— that is to say, M£war, or as it is 
now called, Oudipur — eleven princes had sufficed to fill the throne. 

But in addition to MSwar we have to reckon with Marwar, or 

* * Jodhpur and Jeysulmeer. The former, however, was at this time 

* a comparatively modern principality. After the defeat of Jai- 
chand, the Rajah of Kanauj — who had so unavailingly performed 
the Sai-nair rite at which Prithvi-Raj had carried off the Princess 
Jjunjgg|ta — his grandsons Shiv-ji and S&yat-R&m, set out towards 

the great Indian Desert, hoping to carve fresh fortune from its ^ 

barren stretches. They succeeded ; but it was not until a.d. 151 i y //' ^ 
that Prince Jodha laid the foundation of a new capital, and brought 
Marwar into line with the other great Rajput powers. 

Jeysulmeer had a longer record. Headquarters of the Bhatti 
clan, its legendary history goes back to the eighth century ; but \ 
from a.d. 1 1 56 the chronicle is fairly continuous, and is full of ) , 
romance and interest. Proud, passionate, clean -lived princes,} A £> 
these descendants of the Moon — for they were of the Yidu race — ' /_ „ * 
seem to have been. One of them, still quite a lad, giving way to 
Berserk rage, struck his foster-brother. The blow was returned ; 
whereupon, stung with shame, both at the insult and the lack of 
self-control which brought it about, the offender stabbed himself 
with his dagger. Another still more typical story is told of the 
passing of Rawul (an honorific title equalling Rajah) Chachik, 
who, finding disease his master, sent an embassy to the Mahomedan 

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I \ 


134 The kiddle Age 

ruler of Multan, begging from him the last favour of j&d-dan, or 
! v \ the gift of battle, "that his soul might escape by the steel of his 
" i p foeman, and not fall sacrifice to slow disease." 

The challenge was accepted, after the Mahomedan had been 
assured that honourable death was the sole end and aim. 

So on the appointed day Rawul Chachik, followed by seven 
hundred nobles, who, having shared all his victories, were prepared 
I to follow him to death, marched out " to part with life." 

" His soul was rejoiced, he performed his ablutions, worshipped 
the sword, bestowed charity, and withdrew his thoughts from this 
world. The battle lasted four hours, and the Yadu prince fell 
with all his kin, after performing prodigees of valour. Two 
thousand Mahomedans fell beneath their swords, and rivers of 
blood flowed in the field ; but the Bhatti gained the abode of 
Indra, who shared His throne with the hero." 

\ o-l V Such, then, were the people who were gradually recovering some 
i.C " * at of the possessions and the prestige which they had lost when 

/ Prithvi-Raj fell victim to Mahomed Shahab-ud-din Ghori. 
* r \ \y. " Meanwhile, at Delhi the thirty-six years of kinglessness passed 
" j ( into seventy-three, during which the government was in the hands 
^ ? I of three comparatively strong men, Bel61 Lodi, Secunder Lodi, 
"] - )\ Ibrahim Lodi. 

^ The first was a warrior, the second a bigot, the third a tyrant. 
Of the three, Bel61 did most for his country, since at his death his 
empire extended eastwards as far as Benares. 

Secunder seems to have subordinated policy to religion. He 

destroyed every image and temple which he could see, or of which 

he could hear, and promptly put to death a Brahman who preached 

1 that "all religions, if sincerely practised, were equally acceptable 

! to God." 

Tolerance was not a virtue in those days. 

It was during the reign of Ibrahim Lodi that Babar, the first of 
the great Moghuls, entered India jn a.d. 1514; but this was an 
event of such vast importance that it will be necessary to hark 
back some thirty years to the little kingdom of Ferghana, where 
Babar was born on the 14th of February, A.D. 1483. 



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To face A n 

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A.D. 1483 TO A.D. 1514 

Born on St Valentine's Day, a.d. 1483, the boy-baby, who was 
hereafter to be called Zahir-ud-din Mahomed, and nicknamed 
Babar, must have been plentifully supplied with fairy godmothers, 
for he was gifted with almost every possible gift. * ~ 

To begin with, he had good looks, even judging by the curious 
portraits of those days. Then, there can be no question of his 
ability as a soldier, while intellectually he would have been remark- 
able in any age. Besides this, he was possessed of the true artistic 
temperament to a quite unusual degree ; he was painter, poet, 
author, and in the smallest thing that he wrote showed unerring 
literary skill and taste. 

Beyond, and above all, however, he had that nameless charm 
which makes him, surely, the most delightful personality known 
to history. 

Given such a man, it would be sheer perversity to treat of him 
solely in reference to the part he played in India, as this would be 
to deprive ourselves of no less than thirty-six years of the very 
best of company. 

So let us begin at the very beginning. It is possible to do this 
with an accuracy unobtainable with any other Indian king — or, 
indeed, with any king of any clime — because Babar left to the 
ages an autobiography of himself, his thoughts, his acts, his 
failures, his successes, which is, truly, a quite extraordinary 
record. Between the covers lies a whole, real, live, human 

It opens, however, with these words, "In the year 1494, and 
in the twelfth year of my age, I became King of Ferghana." We 

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136 The Middle Age 

have therefore to go back eleven years for the birth of Babar. 
Before doing this, a glance round the world will give us the milieu 
in which our hero was to play his part 

Briefly, then, Vasco da Gam a had but just discovered India. 
Henry VII. was King of England. Gunpowder had lately been 
f< used in {he battle of Cregy. Michelangelo was revolutionising 
the world* of art, Copernicus creating that of science. For the 
rest, a hundred years had passed since Timur the "Earth Trembler" 
had literally shaken the world ; for his grip on it had reached 
West to Moscow and East to China. Yet a hundred years further 
A back again Chengiz Khan had swept over the same ground like 
a devastating flame. 

Babar had both these unamiable ruffians as ancestors, but, 
apparently, was by no means proud of his Mougal or Moghul 
descent He called himself a Turk, and wrote hardly of the 
race whose name, by the irony of fate, was to be attached to 
the dynasty he founded. 

" If the Moghul race had an angel's birth, 
It still would be made of the basest earth ; 
Were the Moghul name writ in thrice-fired gold, 
It would ring as false as it did of old ; 
From a Moghul's harvest sow never a seed 
For the seed of a Moghul is false indeed ! " 

Babar was the son of Oma r-S haikh, King of Ferghana, or as 
it is now called, Khokand. At his birth a courier was sent post- 
haste to inform his maternal grandfather, the Khan of the Mongols, 
who, despite his seventy years, came back post-haste to join in the 
festivities, and — his uncouth, Mongolian tongue trippling over the 
' polished Persian name Zahir-ud-din (the Evidence of Faith) — to 
dub the child Babar, or " the tiger," a nickname which stuck to 
him for life. A fine old man this grandfather of Babar's, and a fine 

f* old woman his grandmother must have been. A woman not to 
be trifled with, to judge by her action when one Jaimul-Khan, 
having for a time defeated her husband, seized her and made her 
over to one of his officers. 

Isa- Begum raised no puerile objections. She received her new 
master quite affably, but once he was within her chamber door 
she locked it, bade her maids stab him to death, fling the body 
to the street, and send this message to Shaikh-Jlimul : "I am 
the wife of Yunas. Contrary to law, you gave me to another man, 

y\ so I slew him. Come and slay me if you choose." 


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The Great Moghuls 137 

The erring Jaimul must have had good in him, for, struck by 
her courage, he restored her honourably to her husband. X s 

At the age of five Babar was betrothed to his cousin Ay£sha, 
and the next six years must have been spent at the millstone 
of education, since this was all the schooling Fate granted him, 
and he emerged from it with two languages at his fingers' end, 
and an amount of literary skill and general knowledge wliich was 
fairly surprising. His father, still in the prime of life, was killed 
by an accident while away from his capital, and the incident is 
thus described by the boy-king, who, 36 miles away, " immediately 
mounted in the greatest haste, and, taking such followers as 
were at hand, set out to secure my throne." 

" The river flows under the walls of the castle, which is situated 
on the very edge of a high precipice, so that it serves as a moat. 
And some of the ravines down to it being scarped to support the 
castle, in all Ferghana stands no stronger fortress. Thus one 
of the walls giving way, my father, feeding his pigeons, was, with 
the pigeons and the pigeon-house, precipitated from the top of the 
steep, and so himself took flight to another world." 

A quaint description, giving a picture which lingers in the mind's 
eye. The fortress hanging over the abyss, the king, in Eastern 
fashion, making his pigeons tumble for their corn. Then the 
sudden slip, and a startled soul among the startled white wings 
on its way to another world. Even the body which the soul 
had left remains alive for ever in Babar's words : — 

"My father was of lowish stature, had a short, bushy beard, 
and was fat. He used to wear his tunic very tight, and as he 
drew himself in when he put it on, when he let himself out the 
strings often burst. He plaited his turban without folds, and let 
the end hang down. He was but a middling shot with the bow, 
but had such uncommon force with his fists that he never hit a 
man but he knocked him down. His generosity was large, and 
so was his whole nature. He was a humane king, and played 
a great deal at backgammon." 

Peace be to thine ashes, oh, Omar-Shafkh ! Even after all 
the centuries we seem to know the man himself, as we read the 
words in which his son has pictured him. 

So, let us hark back to Ferghana, the little kingdom watered 
by the river Jax&rtes, and give one more extract from Babar's 
journal to show what manner of place it seemed to the eleven-year- 
old king. 


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13$ The Middle Age 

" Ferghana is situate on the extreme boundary of the habitable 
world.- It is a valley clipped by snowy mountains on all sides 
but the west, whither the river flows, and on which side alone 
it can be entered by foreign enemies. It is of small extent, but 
abounds in grain and fruits. Its melons are excellent and plentiful. 
There are no better pears in the world. Its pheasants are so 
fat that four persons may dine on the stew of one and not finish 
it. Its violets are particularly elegant, and it abounds in streams 
of running water. In the spring its tulips and roses blow in great 
. profusion, and there are mines of turquoise in the mountains, 
/^ while in the valley the people make velvet of a crimson colour." 

Surely this description is sufficient, not only to show us Ferghana, 
but also to give us a clear idea of the boy who saw it thus. Truly 
the temptation to quote from this delightful record is well nigh 
irresistible, but space forbids, for there is much to say of Babar 
as poet, painter, musician, astronomer, knight-errant, soldier-lover, 
king, and bon vivant. He was all of these in turn ; and in addition, 
kindly, valorous, courteous. A real paladin if ever there was one. 

From the very first he gripped the reins of kingship with a firm 
hand. And it was no easy task to guide the little kingdom through 
the dangers which beset it ; but he succeeded " through the 
distinguished valour of my young soldiers " (he himself being but 
twelve ! ) in besting his uncles the Kings of Samarkhund and 
Tashkund, so holding his own. Shortly after this the young 
king nearly fell a victim to conspiracy, owing to his confidence 
in one Hassan - Yukub, "the best player of leap-frog I have 
known." From this infatuation he was rescued by his shrewd 
old grandmother, of whom Babar speaks with sneaking awe : 
" She was uncommonly far-sighted ; few of her sex equalled her 
in sagacity." This incident evidently sobered him, for he " began 
to abstain from forbidden meats, and seldom omitted midnight 

For there is always something absolutely translucent in Babar's 
accounts of himself, and of everything which he heard and saw. 
It is impossible even for a moment to doubt their accuracy. His 
self - revelation is frankness itself, and his views of men and 
manners bring conviction with them. 

Ambition seems to have seized on him early, for ere he was 
fifteen, his uncle the king having died, he marched on Samarkhund 
to make a bid for the throne. And he succeeded. He was 
Emperor of Samarkhund, as his ancestor Timur had been, for 


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The Great Moghuts 139 

exactly one hundred days, during which he appears to have 
enjoyed himself hugely. One is apt to think of these Eastern 
cities beyond the Verge, as they are now — half-ruined, dreary, 
dead-alive. But in those days they were centres of commerce, 
learning, and art. To Samarkhund Timur had brought the un- 
told riches of India, her clever craftsmen, her skilled artisans. 
It was a beautiful, a cultured city, and Babar came to the con- 
clusion "that in the whole habitable world there are few places 
so pleasantly situated." 

His dream of success lasted but those hundred days ; then 
evil news of rebellion at Fergh&na and an appeal for help came 
from his mother. " I was ill," he writes, " but had not the heart 
to delay an instant, so being unable to nurse myself, I had a 

He came so near death, indeed, that some of his followers, 
despairing of life, shifted for themselves, and brought the news 
of his demise to Fergh&na. Thus when the young king came 
back to consciousness, it was to find himself without a kingdom ; 
for his friends, believing him dead, had surrendered. 

" Thus for the sake of Fergh&na I had given up Samarkhund, 
and now found I had lost the one without securing the other." 

Such is his philosophical comment. But Babar's remarks are 
always inimitable. When they hanged his envoy over the gate 
of the citadel, he sets down his instant belief that " without doubt 
Khwaja Kazi was a saint : he was a wonderfully brave man — 
which is no mean proof of saintship. Other men, brave as they 
may be, have some nervousness or trepidation in them. The Kazi 
hadn't a particle of either." 

This reverse necessitated two years of wandering in the hills. 
He took his mother with him and his old grandmother, giving 
them the best shelter he could find. And wherever he wandered, 
he himself was always cheerful, always kindly, always ready to 
enjoy the beauties and the gifts of Nature ; especially " a wonderful 
delicate and toothsome melon, with a mottled skin like shagreen." 

Until one day, just as the sun was setting, a solitary horseman 
bearing a message sped up the valley towards his mountain fast- 
ness, and in less than half an hour Babar was up and away 
through the deepening night in response to those who loved 
him ; and there were many of them. Indeed his capacity for 
winning over most men to his side is one of his most salient 
characteristics. He was bon catnarade with half his world. 


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140 The Middle Age 

An eventful ride this over hill and dale, through darkness and 
through light. "We had passed three days and three nights 
without rest, neither man nor horse had strength left," when, 
hanging on the edge of a hill, the city of his hope showed rose- 
red in the dawn. Then for the first time fear came. Had he 
been over-hasty? What if this were a trick to decoy him and 
his handful of followers to their death ? 

But "there was no possibility of retreat, no refuge even to 
j/ which we could retreat. So, having come so far, on we must 

go. (Nothing happens but by God's will.) 1 ' 

The trite little sentence of consolation was justified. Babar 
found himself once more King of Ferghana ; but he promptly 
lost his kingdom again by attempting to make his ill-disciplined 
Mongolian troops make restitution to the peasantry of the loot 
they had taken from them. 

He admits his error frankly. 

" It was a senseless thing to exasperate so many men with arms in 
their hands. In war and in statecraft a thing may seem reasonable 
at first sight, but it needs to be weighed and considered in a hundred 
lights before it is finally decided upon. This ill-judged order of 
mine was, in fact, the ultimate cause of my second expulsion." 

This was in a.d. 1500, when he was seventeen years old. Still 
his buoyancy remained, despite his evil fortune, and for the next 
few months his itinerary is full of the joys of " a capital hunting- 
ground, with good covers for game," in which he coursed, and shot, 
and hawked, to his heart's content. 

Not for long, however. Samarkhund tempted him again in the 
summer ; but he had to retire and seek shelter in the hills once 

" by dangerous tracks among the rocks. In the steep and narrow 
ways and gorges which we had to climb, many a horse and camel 
dropped and fell out. After four or five days we came to tjie col 
of Sir-i-Tuk. This is a pass ! Never did I see one so narrow and 
steep, or follow paths more toilsome and strait. We pressed on, 
nevertheless, with incredible labour, through fearful gorges and 
by tremendous precipices, until, after a hundred agonies and 
losses, at last we topped those murderous steep defiles and came 
down on the borders of Kan, with its lovely expanse of lake." 

When eighteen he finally managed to conquer Samarkhund, and 
in the same year his first child, a daughter, was born ; for he had 
wedded his cousin Aygsha while in hiding in the hills. He called 


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The Great Moghuls 141 

the baby "The Glory of Womanhood," ^and chronicles regretfully 
that " in a month or forty days she went to partake of the Mercy 
of God." 

Marriage, however, appears to have roused him to no emotion, 
for he admits first that he had " never conceived a passion for any 
woman, and indeed had never been so placed as even to hear or 
witness words of love or amorous discourse " ; secondly, that in the 
beginning of his wedded life, shyness almost overcame affection ; 
"and afterwards," he adds quaintly, "as my affection decreased 
my shyness increased." 

A curious record of clean-living this for an Eastern king in the 
very hey-day of youth. 

Babar's success did not last for long. Two years after he was 
once more a fugitive, and this time he did not succeed in saving 
all his womenkind. His favourite sister, older than he was by 
some years, remained behind, part of the price paid for bare 
freedom, and entered his victorious enemy's harem. This was 
a bitter pill to swallow, and Babar never forgot it. This sister 
figures in the Memoirs of Babar's daughter, Gulbadan, as " Dearest 
Lady.* She seems to have kept her brother's deep devotion to 
the last. 

So for three long years Babar wandered once more. This is 
perhaps the most exciting portion of his Autobiography. It is 
absolutely packed full with haiiVbreadth escapes, crowded in each 
word with human interest. We see the young king, now in the 
very prime of his manhood, standing stripped for his bathe in " a 
stream that was frozen at the banks, but not in the middle, by 
reason of its swift current." We watch him " plunge in and dive 
sixteen times, but the biting chill of the water cut through me." 
We follow breathlessly the vain endeavour made by him and three 
trusted friends to induce his frightened troops to rally : " I was 
constantly turning with my three companions to keep the enemy 
in check, and bring them up short with our arrows ; but we could 
not make the men stand anyhow." We mourn with him on 
another occasion his ignorance that " the horsemen who followed 
were not above twenty or twenty-five, while we were eight." We 
agree with him that had he " but known their number at first, he 
would 'have given them warm work.'" We share his faith in his 
own nimbleness in climbing a hill as the only escape from the 
arrows of bowmen, and we positively hold our breath in the 


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142 The Middle Age 

amazing story of the Garden at Tambal, where he waited for Death, 
and found Life, and friends, and new hope. 

This was the capture of Kabul. The kingly blood in him craved 
a kingdom. He felt he must have one if he died for it. 

Surely never was claimant for royalty worse fitted out for the 
quest than was Babar ! Even Prince Charlie, with his head in 
Flora Macdonald's lap, does not come up in forlornness with 
Zahir-ud-din Mahomed Babar, who gave his only tent to his 
mother, and whose followers, " great and small, were more than 
two hundred and less than three. Most on foot with brogues to 
their feet, clubs in their hands, and tattered cloaks over their 
shoulders." Yet a short time afterwards he finds himself, " to my 
own great surprise," at the head of quite a respectable army. 

A short time, again, and he is King of Kabul ; such are the 
amazing ups and downs of this most unfortunate, most fortunate 
of princes. 

By this time his wife, Ay£sha, had left him, giving as her reason 
the perfectly true plaint that he did not love her. He had, how- 
ever, fallen in love with some one else ; the woman who was to 
be the mother of his son Humayon, and of his three daughters ,who 
were named by Babar's express wish, " Rose-face, Rose-blush, Rose- 
body." It was at Kabul that Humayon was born. At Kabul, also, 
Babar lost his mother, whom he helped to carry shoulder high to 
her grave in the Garden of the New Year, outside the city, " the 
sweetest spot in all the neighbourhood." 

He remained King of Kabul until he made his first expedition 
to India in 15 14. He gives us detailed accounts of his new 
kingdom. He seems to know everything that is to be known 
about it. The names and habits of every animal, bird, and 
beast, even to the fact that in stormy weather the migratory 
birds are stopped by the everlasting snows of the Hindu-Kush 
hills, and so are taken in hundreds by the bird-fowlers. He 
knows the place where the rarest tulips are to be found, and 
is unceasing in his praise of three-and-thirty different kinds, 
one "yellow, double, scented like a rose." Doubtless, the parents 
of that favourite in modern gardens, " Yellow Rose." 

He knows also of the different clans and people of Kabul, their 
past history, their present languages. In fact, he knows all things 
that are possible to vivid vitality, all things that are given to 
friendly hand and seeing eye. 

It was from Kabul that he went on a visit to his cousins, the 

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The Great Moghuls 143 

Princes of Herat. Here, for the first time, he learnt what luxury 
meant, for Herat was the home of culture and of ease. At first 
he is somewhat shocked. There are so many things " contrary to 
the institutions of Chengiz Khan" — that sacred rule from which 
his family never deviated. 

Then he began to meditate that after all "Chengiz had no 
divine authority," and that if a " father has done wrong, the son 
should change it for what is right." 

From this to doing at Rome what Rome did is but a step ; and 
yet it seems as if he had kept his vow of drinking no wine sacred 
while at Herat. Pity he did not keep it so always. 

It was in returning to Kabul by the mountains from his twenty 
days' visit to the most charming " city in the whole habitable 
world," that Babar met with the following adventure which shows 
him at his best. He and his army were lost in the snow, and 
" met with such suffering and hardship, as I have scarcely endured 
at any other time of my life." 

The poem about it which he sat down to write has not survived, 
but Babar's prose is sufficient for most things. 

" For about a week we went on trampling down the snow. I 
helped with Kasim Beg, and his sons, and a few servants. Each 
step we sank to the waist, or the breast ; but still we went on. 
After a few paces a man became exhausted, and another took 
his place. Then we dragged forward a horse without a rider. 
The horse sank to the stirrups and girths, and after advancing 
ten or fifteen paces, was worn out and replaced by another. It 
was no time for using authority. Every one who has spirit does 
his best at such times, and those who have none are not worth 
thinking about. 

"In three or four days we reached a cave at the foot of the 
Yerrin pass. That day the storm was terrible, and the snow 
fell so heavily, we all expected to die together. When we reached 
the cave the storm was at its worst. We halted at the mouth. It 
seemed small, so I took a hoe and, clearing away the snow, made 
a resting-place for myself about as big as a prayer-carpet, and 
found a shelter from the wind in it. Some were for my going 
into the cave, but I would not. I felt that for me to be within 
in comparative comfort while my soldiers were in snow and drift 
would be inconsistent with that fellowship and suffering which 
was their due. So, remembering the proverb, * Death in the 
company of friends is a feast, 7 I continued to sit in the drift. 
By bedtime prayers 4 inches of snow had settled on my head 
and lips and ears." 


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144 The Middle Age 

The description is excellent, and gives a delightful background 
to the quaint comment with which it finishes : " N.B. — That night 
I caught a cold in my ear." 

Then once again the haunting dream of Samarkhund, the desire 
to possess the throne of his ancestor Timur, came to obsess him, 
and bring disaster. He gained the throne once more, only yet 
once more to lose it. Whether by his own fault, or because 
Fortune's wheel had turned for the time, we know not. The 
Autobiography is silent. 
All we know is that in a.d. 15 19 — that is, when he was thirty-six 
<* years of age— he finally gave up the thought of Samarkhund, and 
/* turned his eyes to India. 
j\ Timur had conquered it ; why should not he ? 


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A.D. 1519 TO A.D. 1530 

These eleven years are all that India really can claim of Babar's 
life ; yet ever since the day when, after a fatal battle in 1503, _^ 

he had taken refuge in a shepherd's hut on the Kuh-i-Suliman , 

hills, and (as he sate eating burnt bread like another Alfred 1 and 
looking out to where in the dim distance the wide plain of Hindu- 
stan rose up like a sea ending the vast vista of mountains) an rf,t 
old woman, ragged, decrepid, had told him tales of her youth when ' " ' 

the earth trembled under Timur — ever since then the idea of "~~" 
India had been part and parcel of his adventurous mind. 

To do as his great ancestor had done ; that became his ambition. * l\ 
At thirty-six he tried to make that ambition a reality. f 5 ( -7 

How the last twelve years from A.D. 1 507 had passed, we have 
no record. The Memoirs are silent, the Diary has ceased to be 
written. Why, it is impossible to say. Perhaps Babar felt his 
life too tame and commonplace for record, especially after his 
melodramatic youth. 

We left, therefore, a young man of four-and-twenty, inclined to 
be shocked at a wine party, we find him again a man of thirty-six 
and an inveterate toper. Anything and everything is an excuse 
for the wine-cup. " Looking down from my tent on the valley 
below, the watch-fires were marvellously beautiful ; that must be 
the reason, I think, why I drank too much wine at dinner that 
evening." For Babar is still translucently frank. " I was miser- 
ably drunk," is an oft confession, and he does not hesitate to record 
the fact that he and his companions " sate drinking wine on the 
hill behind the water-run till evening prayers ; when we went to 
Tardi-Beg's house and drank till midnight— it was a wonderfully 
amusing and guileless party." 

145 K 


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146 the Middle Age 

It was the vice of his age. He had resisted it apparently until 
he was six-and-twenty, and he had every intention of giving it up 
at a stated time, for he writes in 1521 : "As I intended to abstain 
from wine at the age of forty, and as I now wanted somewhat less 
than a year of that age, I therefore drank copiously." 

One thing may be said in his favour : he never let wine interfere 
with his activities, either of body or of mind. He was ready, as 
ever, to detail the flowers he saw in his marches, to expatiate on 
a beautiful view, to turn a ghazel or quatrain, to rise ere dawn, to 
spend arduous days in the saddle or on foot. 

The portraits of him belong to this period, and they show us a 
man tall, strong, sinewy, with the long straight nose of his race, a 
broad brow, arched eyes, and a curiously small, sensitive mouth. 

Such was the man who conquered India, and in the beginning 
of his conquests set Timur before himself as an example to such 
purpose that it is hard to believe that the ardent and bloodthirsty 
Mahomedan of his first campaign is our sunny, genial Babar. 

In fact the taking of Bajaur is sad reading. "The people," 
writes Babar, " had never seen matchlocks, and at first were not 
in the least afraid of them, but^ hearing the reports of the shots, 
stood opposite the guns, mocking and playing unseemly antics." 

By nightfall, however, they had learnt fear, and "not a man 
ventured* .to show his head." 

This was, nevertheless, not the first time that we hear of 
guns and matchlocks in Indian warfare, although it is the first 
absolutely authentic mention of them. But a hundred and fifty 
years before this, Mahomed-Shah Bhamani, King of Guzerat, is said 
to have employed them. As a digression, it may be observed that 
Babar's Memoirs give us an interesting account of the casting of 
a big gun by one Ustad-Ali, " who was like to cast himself into 
the molten metal " when the flow of it ceased ere the mould was 
full 1 Babar, however, " cheered him up, gave him a robe of 
honour," and "succeeded in softening his humiliation." Which, 
by the way, was unnecessary, since when the mould was opened 
the mischief was found to be reparable, and the gun, when finished, 
threw over 1,600 yards. 

To return to Bajaur. The influence of Timur was strong upon ' 
Babar, and though women and children were spared, the less said 
about the fate of the town the better. Once or twice in his life the 
Tartar which lay beneath his culture showed in Babar's actions ; 
but only once or twice. Ere he arrived at the next town he had 


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The Great Moghuls 147 

found an excuse for clemency. He claimed the Punjab as his by 
right of inheritance. " I reckoned," he writes, " of the countries 
which had belonged to the Turk as my own territory, and I 
permitted no plundering or pillage." An admirable compromise, 
which allowed him to read his great ancestor's account of his 
campaign with a clear conscience. 

After a short expedition he returned to Kabul, having set a 
faint finger-mark on the extreme north of India. In the next five 
years he is said to have made three more expeditions into the - 
Punjab, but the Memoirs are again silent as to these, and they 5 
appear to have been insignificant. But the idea of Indian conquest 
was not dead, and in a.d. 1524 it burst forth again into sudden a } 
life. The cosmic touch which roused it being the appeal of the 
rightful heir to the Kingdom of Delhi for help against his nephew 
Ibrahim Lodi, who, he said, had usurped the throne. At the same 
time Babar's governor in the Punjab begged the emperor to come 
to his aid. 

It was the psychic moment, and Babar was prepared for it. 
He marched instantly on Lah6re, and finding affairs unsatisfactory, 
paused ere going further to return to Kabul, and beat up rein- 
forcements with which to secure his line of retreat. Coming back, 
he found it necessary to settle the governor, an old Afghan, who 
had broken into rebellion, and who, girding on two swords, swore 
to win or die. He did neither, for Babar, catching him red- 
handed in rebellion with the two swords still hanging round his 
neck, forgave him — as he was inclined to forgive all men. 

So, free at last, he set his face towards Delhi. What the 
state of India was at this time we know. It was one of countless 
jealousies, seething rebellions, open disunion — on all sides con- 
quest seemed possible ; but Delhi had been the goal of Timur, 
so it must be the goal of his descendant. 

Curiously enough, this last, and in all ways most decisive attack 
from the North- West on India did not come as those of Mahomed 
of Ghuzni, of Mahomed Shahab-ud-din Ghori, and of Timur had 
come, with the returning flight of migratory birds from the 
summer coolth of the high Siberian . steppes. The birds were 
winging westward in this April a.d. 1526, when Babar, choosing 
with the eye of a general the old battle-field on the plain near 
Paniput, set to work entrenching himself in a favourable position. 
This was a new method of battle to the Indians. So was the 
laager which he made out of his seven hundred gun-carriage 


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148 The Middle Age 

linked together by raw cow-hide to break a possible cavalry 
charge, and strengthened by shield shelters for the matchlock 
men. For a whole week, though the army of Delhi — consisting 
of a hundred thousand troops and a thousand elephants— lay 
before him, Babar, whose total force numbered twelve thousand, 
was neither let nor hindered in his work. But then Sultan- 
Ibrahim, who commanded the enemy himself, is briefly dismissed 
by the man whose whole life had been one long fight, as being 
"inexperienced, careless in his movements, one who marched 
without order, halted or retired without method, and engaged 
without foresight." 

It was on the 21st that Babar accepted the challenge which 
followed on a repulsed night-attack which he attempted in order 
to draw the enemy. 

It is interesting to note the formation Babar adopted. The 
laagered guns in front ; behind them — the line broken at bowshot 
distances by gaps through which a hundred horsemen could 
charge abreast — the right and left centre, right and left wing. 
Behind that again the reserve, and the cavalry left over from 
the flanking parties at the extreme right and left. 

On came the Indians at quick march, aiming at Babar*s right ; 
finding the enemy entrenched, they hesitated, and pressure from 
behind threw them into disorder. In an instant the Mongol 
cavalry charged through the gaps, took them in rear, discharged 
their arrows, and galloped back to safety. This is their national 
manoeuvre, and proved once more of deadly effect, as it had done 
in the days of Timur. 

But the battle waged fiercely, uncertainly. At one time Babar's 
left, over-rash, might have been overwhelmed, but for his watchful 
eyes, his instant support. 

So as the sun rose high, the wavering victory chose the side of 
the Northerners. The Southerners, driven into their centre, were 
unable to use what strength they possessed, and by noon Sultan- 
Ibrahim himself lay dead, with fifteen thousand of his finest 
troops. The rest were in full flight. It had been " made easy 
to me, and that mighty army in the space of half a day was 
laid in the dust." 

So wrote the victor modestly, though there can be no question 
that the battle was won by superior generalship. 

The way was now clear before him. He seized on Delhi and 
Agra without, apparently, much bloodshed, and immediately dis- 


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The Great Moghuls 149 

tributed the treasures gained amongst his followers, only reserving 
sufficient for the State to send a silver coin to every living soul in 
Kabul, bond or free, and to pay the army and the Government. 

He kept' nothing for himself; he was not of those to whom 
gold brings pleasure. Yet in Hindustan he found few things 
for which he cared. There can be no question that it was a 
disappointment to him. 

" It is a country," he writes, " that has few pleasures to recom- 
mend it. It is extremely ugly. All its towers and its lands have a 
uniform look. Its gardens have no walls ; the greater part of it is 
level plain. And the people are not handsome. They have no 
idea of the charms of friendly society. They have no good horses, 
no good flesh, no good grapes, or musk-melons, no ice or cold 
water, no good food or bread in their bazaars, no baths or colleges, 
no candles or torches — never even a candlestick / " 

Poor Babar ! It was now the hottest of the hot weather, and the 
heat in the summer of 1526 "chanced to be unusually oppressive. ,, 
Hitherto these northern invaders had sought relief from discomfort 
in return to their cooler climes ; but Babar had other aims. He 
wished to establish himself Emperor of India, and all around him 
in M&war, in Marwar, in Gwalior, everywhere save in the line of 
his victorious march, lay enemies. 

He determined to remain, but had to meet as determined -an 
opposition on the part of his troops. 

It irritated even his placid good-temper. 

" Where is the sense of decency," he writes, " of eternally dinning 
the same tale into the ears of one who had seen the facts with his 
own eyes, and formed a calm and fixed resolve in regard to the 
business in hand ? What use was there in the whole army, down 
to the very dregs, giving me their stupid, uninformed opinions ?" 

What indeed ! 

He gave them his in return at a full review. 

"Are we to turn back from all we have accomplished and fly to 
Kibul like men who have been discomfited! Let no man who 
calls himself my friend ever again moot such a thing, but if there 
be any of you who cannot bring himself to stay, let him go ! " 

Needless to say, this appeal to personal friendship was effectual, 
though apparently pleasantry passed between the comrades-in-arms. 


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150 The Middle Age 

One wrote on the walls of the fort : — 

" Could I but cross the river Sind, 
Damned if I would return to Hind." 

To which Babar sent the following reply : — 

* ' Babar thanks God who gave him Sind and Ind, 
Heat of the plains, chill of the mountain cold. 
Does not the scorch of Delhi bring to his mind 
Bitter bite of frost in Ghuzni of old ? " 

He was always writing verses ; always, as he puts it, " wandering 
into these follies. For God's sake, do not think amiss of me 
for them. ,, 

His determination to stick by what he had won proved a great 
factor for peace. Many of the Mahomedan governors and petty 
kings acknowledged him as suzerain ; he forced others to sub- 
mission, and, ere the rains fell, bringing a welcome cessation to 
the fiery heat, he found himself with only Hindus to conquer. He 
attempted this at first by generosity and kindness. The son of 
Hassan- KMn, Rajah of M6wat (who from his name must have 
been a converted Hindu), was a prisoner of war. Babar returned 
him to his father with a friendly message ; but the overture failed. 
No sooner at ease about his son than the chief overtly joined the 
enemy, and with Rajah Sanga of Mewar (sixth in succession from 
Hamir, whose widow-wife won back Chitore), marched to attack 
Babar. They met at the ridge of Sikri, about 20 miles from 
Agra, where in after years Babar's grandson, the great Akbar, 
was to found his city of victory. 

We can imagine the meeting, for Rajah Sanga, though an old 
man, was, in his way, Babar's double in chivalry and vitality. 
Both knew it was war to the death. And the old " Lion of the 
Rajputs," minus an eye and an arm, lame of leg and with eighty 
scars of battle on his body, must have taken stock of his foeman 
with inward admiration. 

Here was no weakling, unnerved by luxury, but a man after a 
Rajput's heart. A man who swam every river he crossed for 
sheer joy in breasting a strong stream, who lived in the saddle, 
who, if challenged, would snatch up a comrade in either arm, 
and run round the battlements of a fort, leaping the embrasures 
in laughing derision ; a man, too, well versed in warfare, better 
armed, if with a far smaller force at his disposal. 

But if Babar had advantages he had also disadvantages. The 


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The Great Moghuls 151 

hot weather had told on his troops, a preliminary reverse at 
Byina had unsteadied their nerves, which broke down absolutely 
when an astrologer, arriving unseasonably from Kabul, talked 
about the aspect of Mars and loudly presaged disaster. It needed 
all Babar's marvellous vitality, all that self-confidence which is 
the very essence of genius, to keep his followers in hand. For 
he recognised the virtues of his enemies. He saw that they were 
animated by one all- vivifying spirit of devotion, of national pride. 

To match this, if he could, in his own rough-and-ready hordes of 
horsemen, he proclaimed a " Jehad," or Holy War. Yet something 
more was needed to " stiffen their sinews, and summon up the 
blood." His own mind reverted, despite his courage, to many 
a sin of omission and commission. It was a time for repentance, 
for vows, for anything which would, as it were, bring the fourth 
dimension into life. So one evening he assembled his troops ; 
before them he broke his jewelled wine-cups and beakers, he 
emptied the wine of Shiraz, the wine of Tabriz upon the dust, 
and solemnly made his confession of sin, his vow of total abstinence. 
His manifesto began well — " Gentlemen and soldiers ! Whoso sits 
down to the feast of life must end by drinking the cup of death." 

It was an inspiration ! Wine-cups poured on to the pile, oaths 
were sworn, from that moment the army plucked up courage. 
There was no good in further delay. Babar had staked his all 
on this chance, he was eager to try conclusions. On 12th March 
he marched his army in battle array for 2 miles, he himself 
galloping along the line encouraging, giving special orders how 
each division was to act, how each separate man was to proceed 
and engage. But it was not until Saturday, the 16th March 1527, 
that the second great fight between the west and the east, between 
Mongol and Aryan, Islamism and Hinduism began, this time on 
the plains of Kanwaha. What the force of the imperial troops 
was is unknown ; most likely less than one-half of the two hundred 
thousand said to have been ranged on the Rajput side. In truth, 
there were almost too many there, and their interests were too 

So suspicion of some treachery is not lacking- Be that as 
it may, both sides fought bravely; but Babar's unusual dis- 
position of his troops, by which fully one-half of his force was 
held in reserve, seems to have turned the tide of fortune in his 
direction, and by evening (the battle began at half-past nine in the 
morning) the last lingering remnant of concerted Rajput resist- 


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152 The Middle Age 

ancc was swept away, and Babar was unquestioned Emperor of 
India. Had he then pressed his victory home, the Rajput power 
would have been shattered absolutely. But he preferred to take 
the task in detail. It is a thousand pities that Babar's desire 
to do justice to this great battle induced him to give it in the 
grandiloquent and elaborate despatch of his Secretary, instead 
of in one of his own inimitable descriptions, but we have at least 
the satisfaction of reading the torrent of abuse with which he 
greeted the astrologer who — "most unwisely n — came to con- 
gratulate him on his victory. "Insufferable evil- speaker" is one 
of the mildest of his epithets ; but he gave him a liberal present, 
and bid him quit the presence and the dominions for ever. 

He spent the next few months in attempting to restore order 
to the Government, and when winter brought the fighting season 
once more, he marched on the town of Chand£ri, which had 
become a stronghold of the remaining Rajputs. Here he saw, 
almost contemptuously, the final sacrifice of the Joh&r. It did 
not impress him, possibly because he held the previous defence 
of the fortress to have been poor, half-hearted. 

About this time prolonged attacks of fever warned him that 
he could not in India trifle with his health as he had trifled 
with it in the north. 

He thought once that he had hit on a marvellous febrifuge — 
the translation of religious tracts into verse ! — and he records with 
interest how one bout ended before he had finished his task ; 
but the effect was not lasting. Still, nothing crippled his extra- 
ordinary energy, and so late as March 1529 he writes in his diary : 

"I swam across the Ganges for amusement. I counted my 
strokes, and found that I swam over in thirty-three ; then I took 
my breath and swam back. I had crossed by swimming every 
river I met, except (till then) the Ganges." 

He was very happy, apparently, in these days. India was at 
peace under stern military control. At Agra, where he had 
settled, beautiful gardens were growing up, in which flourished 
many a flower he had loved in the wild adventurous days of his 
youth. Nor did he confine himself to old favourites. We read 
of a wonderful red oleander, unlike all other oleanders, which 
he found in an ancient garden at Gwalior. His old love of Nature, 
too, finds expression in a detailed account of the fauna and flora 
of his new possessions. 


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The Great Moghuls 153 

Finally, he was happy in his domestic relations. In the Memoirs 
of his daughter, Gulbadan, we read of the joyful evening when 
news came to him that the long-expected caravan from Kabul 
was within six miles of the city, when, without waiting for a 
horse, bareheaded, in slipper-shoon, he had run out to meet his 
" Dearest-dear," had met her, and walked the weary miles along 
the dusty road beside her palanquin. 

In Babar's Memoirs this stands in a single sentence, pregnant 
with meaning : — 

" On Sunday at midnight I met Mahum again " — 

Mahum being the pet name for the wife who had borne him the 
three daughters whom he loved so well, the son Humayon of 
whom he was so proud. 
Concerning the latter he writes : — 

" I was just talking to his mother about him when in he came " 
(from Badakhshan). " His presence opened our hearts like rose- 
buds, and made our eyes shine like torches. The truth is, that 
his conversation has an inexpressible charm, he realises abso- 
lutely the ideal of perfect manhood." 

Brave words these ; but Babar was ready to stand by them 
to the death. 

The story is a strange one, but it is well authenticated. In 
October a.d. 1530 Humayon was brought back to Agra, sick. 
The physicians despaired of his life, the learned doctors declared 
that nothing could save him save the Mercy of God, and sug- 
gested some supreme sacrifice. 

Babar caught at the idea. " I can give my life," he said, " it is 
the dearest thing I have, and it is the dearest thing on earth to 
my son." 

And in spite of remonstrance — the learned doctors having 
apparently intended a present to God (through them !) of money 
or jewels — he adhered to his decision. He entered his son's 
room, he stood at the head of the bed in prayer, then walked 
round it three times, solemnly saying the while : " On me be thy 

Was it the extreme nervous tension acting on a constitution 
weakened by fever, by hardships of every kind, which made his 
prayer effectual? Who can say? Certain it is that he died in 
his forty-ninth year, and Humayon lived on to die at the same age. 


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154 The Middle Age 

Babar, by his own request, was buried beside his mother in the 
Garden of the New Year at Kibul. He rests there within hearing 
of the running streams, within sight of the tulips and roses which 
he so dearly loved, for which he had so often longed with a " deep 
home-sickness and sense of exile." 

So the most romantic figure of Indian history vanishes from our 


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A.D. 1530 TO A.D. 1556 

HumAyon was practically the only son of his father. There can 
be no doubt that Babar regarded Mahum, the mother of the four 
children of whom he was so passionately fond, Hum&yon, Rose- 
blush, Rose-face, Rose-body, from a different standpoint from his 
other wives, of whom he seems to have had four. This, however, 
did not prevent there being three other princes, Kamran, Hindal, 
and Askari, in the direct line of succession. Apparently they 
must have been somewhat troublesome before Babar' s death, since 
one of his last words to his beloved heir was the hope that kind- 
ness and forgiveness should ever be shown to them. And right 
well did Humiyon keep his promise. Had he been less affectionate, 
less tender-hearted, he had been a better and a more successful 
king. His patience was early tried. Almost before the deep and 
sincere mourning for the kindly dead, which Lady Rose-body 
describes in her Memoirs, was over, he had to decide between 
fraternal war and Kamran's claim to supremacy in the Punjab. 
He chose the latter, an initial mistake which cost him dear. 
There must, indeed, have been some impression abroad that the 
new king had less fibre than his father, for from the very first 
Humayon found himself enmeshed in a perfect network of revolt 
and conspiracy. He was now a young man of three-and-twenty, 
tall, extremely handsome, witty, and of the most charming manners. 
Unfortunately, he had already contracted the opium habit, which, 
though as yet it had not set its mark on his vitality, undoubtedly 
disposed him to be more easy - going than even Nature had 
intended him to be ; and that is saying much, for his sweetness 
of temper is surprising. His whole life appears to have been 



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156 The Middle Age 

spent in forgiving injuries which, by all the rules of justice and 
expediency, he should not have* forgiven. Succeeding to his 
father in a.d. 1530, he was instantly engaged in war—fruitless 
war. Brave to a fault, not without intelligence, something always 
seemed to stand between him and success. The story of his 
failure to relieve Chitore is typical of him. Its widowed Rani, in 
sore straits to save it for her infant son from the hands of Bahadur- 
Shah, King of Guzerat (one of the many kings who snatched at 
every opportunity of enlarging their borders), sent a Ram-Rukhi, 
or Bracelet -of- the -Brother, to Humayon. Now this Brother- 
Bracelet is in Rajas than what a lady's glove was to chivalry. 
Only in greater degree, for the recipient becomes a brother — a 
bracelet-bound brother. There is no value in the pledge. It is 
generally a thin silk cord, to which are attached seven differently- 
coloured tassels ; but once given and accepted by the return of a 
tiny silken bodice, called a kalchli, it is an inviolable tie. In 
her extremity Kurn&tavi sent hers to Hum&yon, whose fame as a 
puissant knight had reached her ears. He was enchanted with 
the romance of the idea, and instantly left the campaign on which 
he was engaged to go to her rescue. And then? Then he 
dallied. Then he became involved in a wordy, witty, pedantic 
war in verse with Bahadur-Shih, in which much point was laid 
on the resemblance of the name Chitore to some other word ; in 
the midst of which the city fell, and suffered yet one more sack. 

But the most memorable event of the early years of his reign 
was, however, the siege of Chunar, where he found himself first 
matched against the man who was eventually for a time to wrest 
his kingdom from him, and send him out a wanderer on the 
face of the earth for twelve long years. 

This siege, which Humayon felt compelled to carry through 
before marching on Bengal, was in reality a deep-laid plan of 
the rebel Sher-Khan. It was a method—often adopted in modern 
warfare, but until then unheard of in the East — of holding up his 
enemy's forces until such time as he had consolidated his own 
powers. It answered admirably. The rock of Chunar, detached 
outpost of the Vindhya mountains which frowns over the Ganges, 
engaged all Hum&yon's attention for months, and when, after 
reducing it, he pushed on, Sher-Khan once more met brute- 
force by guile, and leading Hum&yon on, left him to stew for 
the rainy season in the delta of the Ganges, a prey to flood and 
fever, while he himself looked down on him from the low 


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The Great Mogfmls 157 

hills of Northern Berars. It was a bitter beating! A prey 
to mosquitoes, to malaria, it was with difficulty that Humiyon's 
troops managed to preserve their communications with their 
base. Every tank was a lake, every brook a river. Their spirits 
sank, and no sooner were the roads opened than they deserted in 
hundreds ; Prince Hindal — who, despite the virtue of being nearly 
always faithful to his brother, appears to have been of little good 
to him — setting the example by leaving ere the rains had stopped. 

So when the dry season brought the possibility of campaign, 
Humayon had no choice but to retreat from the now daily 
increasing boldness of his enemy, and try to force his way back 
to Agra. In this he was stopped by the river Ganges, which it 
was necessary to cross in order to avoid an entrenched camp 
which he could neither pass nor hope to reduce. 

The bridge of boats took close on two months to complete, 
and then, a night or two before retreat became possible, the 
imperial camp was surprised about daybreak by the watchful 
enemy. It must have been a very complete surprise, for the 
emperor himself had only time to mount his horse, and after 
a vain appeal to his officers for one effort at least to repel the 
attack, accept their advice and ride for his life to the river-side. 
The bridge was not finished, there was no time for hesitation, 
so Humayon urged his horse into the stream. It sank ere it 
could reach the shore, and the emperor would undoubtedly have 
done so likewise, but for the intervention of a water-carrier who 
was crossing with his skin bag, inflated with air, doing duty as 
a float. 

It proved enough to support two ; Humayon's life was saved, 
but his queen was left in Sher-Shah's hands. The whole story 
has a smack of opium about it, and it seems more than probable 
that the young king, roused out of a drugged sleep, had not 
his wits about him. Nothing else can explain the fact of Babar's 
son running like a hare, and leaving his womenkind behind him. 
His wife appears, however, not to have suffered thereby in any 
way, not even in her affection for her handsome, thriftless king, 
for it was she, a childless widow, who after his death erected 
the splendid mausoleum at Delhi which bears his name. 

There is also something of opium in the promise which 
Humayon made to the water-carrier, that if he came to Agra, 
and if he found Humayon alive, he might, as a reward, claim 
to be king for a day* 


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158 The Middle Age 

He did come, so we are told, and for a day sate on the throne 
of the Emperor of India. Hum&yon, always fond of a joke, made 
merry over this one, and had prime fun in cutting up the 
water-carrier's skin bag into wads (which were duly stamped as 
coin in the mint), and in other merry antics, for he was light-hearted 
like his father. Nevertheless, the jest cost him dear, for it drew 
down on him the wrath of his sour brother Kamr&n, who always 
nourished the secret belief — not an unfounded one — that he 
would have made a better king than his brother. 

This, however, after Hum&yon's generous condonation of both 
his brothers' grievous faults, should have closed their lips from 
criticism. For both Kamrin and Hindal, seizing the opportunity 
of this disaster, claimed the throne, and marching on Agra from 
different sides, fell out over the question, until recalled to a sense 
of their common danger from the Bengal enemy. 

Then the three royal brothers made friends, Hum&yon, as ever, 
eager to clasp hands with those of whom he used to say : " How 
can I quarrel with them ? Are they not monuments of my dear, 
dead father?" 

Practically this defeat on the banks of the Ganges was 
Hum&yon's Waterloo. He held his head above water for a 
while, attempted another campaign next year, lost once more 
on the banks of the Ganges near Kanauj, and was, with his army, 
absolutely driven into the river. Thence he escaped with difficulty, 
and but for the timely aid of two turbans knotted and thrown 
out to him, would undoubtedly have been drowned under the 
high bank which was too steep for his elephant to climb. Joined 
by his brothers Hindal and Askari, he fled to Agra, thence 
with his women and part of his treasures to Delhi, and so, 
gathering what he could at the latter place, to Lahore. But 
he was no welcome guest to Kamr£n, who, fearing to be embroiled 
in the quarrel with Sher-Sh£h, withdrew to Kabul, leaving 
Humiyon helpless. He turned then to Sinde as a refuge, and 
after two and a half years of many adventures, found himself 
a mere wanderer in the desert. 

It was, then, at the lowest ebb of fortune, that Fate interfered 
to make him — which is, indeed, his only real claim to remembrance 
— the father of the greatest king India has ever known. 

The story is romantic in the extreme. His brother Hindal 
was over the Indus-water, in the rich province of Sehwin, and 
Humayon, who from bitter experience had reason to doubt the 


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The Great Moghuls 159 

former's loyalty, was keeping an eye on his proceedings. He 
therefore crossed the river for an interview at the town of Patar. 
He found Hindal in the midst of festivities ; for what purpose 
history sayeth not, but from what followed it seems likely that 
it was preparatory to a marriage. His mother, at any rate, 
gave an entertainment to all the ladies of the court, and at this 
Humayon saw, and instantly fell in love with, a girl of sixteen, 
called Hamida-Begum. Hearing she was not as yet betrothed, 
he instantly said he would marry her. Then ensued a violent 
quarrel between the brothers, from which it seems likely that 
Humayon's fancy had chosen the bride-elect. The girl wept 
at both brothers. They stormed ; but finally Hindal's mother 
counselled her son to yield, and the thirty-eight-year-old Humiyon 
carried off the prize. Their honeymoon cannot have been cloud- 
less, for they spent it in danger of their lives ; but Humayon 
must from his temperament have been a most beguiling bride- 
groom, and the little bride's tears soon dried. She followed 
him bravely, early in the next year, through the Great Desert 
of India, where horse and man nearly died of thirst. 

That ceaseless marching from fresh enemies by day and night 
must have been a terrible experience for the young wife, soon to 
become a mother ; but she had at least the consolation of her 
husband's deep, absorbing devotion. Once when her palfrey fell 
never to rise again, the king put her on his charger, and walked 
beside her bridle rein all through the long, weary night -march. 
The stars must have looked down kindly on them as they toiled 
along, hand fast in hand. 

It is a pretty picture, anyhow. So, after unheard-of miseries, 
they gained the quaint, stern old fort of Amark6t, which rises 
bare and square out of the desert sand. One can imagine that 
August day, with the parching wind beating the fine, sharp sand 
of the desert against the purple-stained bricks, and grinding them 
to grey frostiness. 

Here the Pathan chatelain, taking pity on the outwearied 
princess, offered her asylum. Humayon, however, must go on ; 
there was no rest, no shelter for such as he. It was four days 
after the sorrowful parting that a courier rode post-haste after 
the wanderer, telling him that a son was born to him— his first, 
his only son. There was no gold in the camp to give the 
messenger. All of regal pomp that could be found was a bag 
of musk, and this the proud father broke upon an earthenware 


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160 The Middle Age 

platter, and distributed to his followers as a royal present in 
honour of " an. event which diffused its fragrance over the whole 
habitable world." 

Gulbadan-Begum, in her Memoirs, gives a somewhat different 
version of the birth of Akbar. In it he was born under a tree in 
the desert, and the little sixteen-year-old mother wept with fear 
at the hard-featured village midwife summoned hastily to her 
aid, then flung her arms round her and cried for joy when the 
boy-baby was put into her young arms. Within a month she and 
the child were back sharing her lover - husband's danger. It 
increased day by day, hour by hour. When the young Akbar 
was but a year old, it reached its climax. Compelled to quit 
Sinde, Humayon, his wife and child with him, and some half a 
dozen followers, was on his way to Kandahar, when news came 
that his brother Askari was marching against him in force. 
There was nothing for it but swift, immediate flight. But the 
weather was boisterous, the only safe road almost impassable. 

How about the child ? Rapidly calculating chances, they decided 
on leaving the infant prince behind them. What tears, what fore- 
bodings must not have been miserable Hamida's — what vain kisses 
and strainings to her heart ! 

But when Askari entered the little camp, the deed was done. 
The baby Akbar was there regal in his nurse's arms, with all his 
equipage, all his poor mockery of state and service about him, 
but the two fugitives were riding hard for the Persian frontier. 

Humayon had lost all things, even his fatherhood. 

Digitized by VjOOQ IC 


A.D. 1542 TO A.D. 1554 

Sher-KhAn, the man who, worsting Humayon, seized on the 
throne, had no atom of royal blood in his veins. He was a plain 
soldier, though of good birth ; but, his father neglecting him, he 
had run away from home and entered the ranks. A rough-and- 
ready soldier, too, who, even in Babar's time, had not scrupled to 
tell a friend that in his opinion it would be no hard task to " drive 
these foreign Moghuls from Hindustan ; for though the king him- 
self was a man of parts, he trusted too much to his ministers, who 
were corrupt." 

The friend laughed ; but Sher - Khan was right even in his 
estimate of the king who, curiously enough, singled him out 
unerringly a few days afterwards, when, at a military banquet, he 
called for a knife to carve a chicken withal, and, the servant 
taking no notice of his rough order, immediately drew his dagger 
and coolly used it with contemptuous disregard for the diversion 
of his neighbours. Babar's quick eye caught the incident, and 
he remarked : " He may be a great man yet ; trifles do not 
disconcert him. ,, 

He does not, however, appear to have been either an amiable 
or an estimable person, though he was not vicious, and even his 
successes as a soldier are somewhat too crafty for admiration. 
He knew well when to attack, when to retreat, and, if imperialist 
and Rajput accounts are to be trusted, was not over-scrupulous in 
his use of the white flag. 

Then there is no doubt but that a secret understanding existed 
between him and Humayon's brother Kamran ; for on the with- 
drawal of the latter from Lah6re, Sher- Shah instantly pounced 
down on it, and would have captured the fugitive king but for his 
hasty flight. 

161 L 


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1 62 The Middle Age 

He docs not in truth appeal to one's sympathies, this Afghan of 
the House of Stir, though he was by no means without good points. 
It is, however, impossible to get up much interest in a man who picks 
a quarrel with an innocent Rajput rajah on the ground that he has 
Mahomedan women in his harem, and who, after a lengthy siege, 
induces capitulation by promise of the garrison being allowed to 
march out with their arms and their property : thereinafter, on the 
advice of a learned doctor of law (who declared it was a sin to keep 
faith with infidels), proceeding to surround the brave band and 
cut them off ! 

It is satisfactory to learn that they sold their lives dearly. But , 
Sher-Shah continued to be diplomatic. He gained his success 
against the Rajah of Mar war by a stratagem. Finding himself 
in a tight place, he forged treasonable correspondence between 
himself and certain of the Rajput generals, which was then so 
disposed of as to fall into the generalissimo's hands. The distrust 
thus sown of his levees' loyalty caused the rajah to give way ; and 
with disastrous results. 

The death of this Machiavel in armour was a Nemesis, for it 
arose in consequence of the Rajah of Kalinjasr's refusal to capitulate, 
on the ground of Sher- Shah's many treacheries. 

In the subsequent mining which became necessary to reduce 
the fort, Sher-Shah was blown to bits in an explosion of a powder 
magazine that had not been properly secured. 

Despite his treachery, he did much for India in the way of 
public works. The caravanserais, the wells which still stud the 
course of the high road from Bengal to the Indus, are of his 
building ; and the very trees which shade the weary traveller in 
the long marching, if not of his planting, stand in the places of 
those which he watered with care. 

He reigned five years, and left two sons. The elder and rightful 
heir preferred obscurity to prolonged battle for the crown, and 
after a while disappeared and was no more heard of, leaving I slam - 
Shah, or, as he is called by a mispronunciation, Salim-Shah, to 
follow in his father's treacherous footsteps. The most noteworthy 
event in his reign was the insurrection of the Mahdi sect, led by 
one Ilahi. The tenets of their faith seem to have been curiously 
destructive of each other. Neither their profession of predestina- 
tion nor their pure socialism prevented them from going about 
armed, meting out lynch-law to all and sundry whom they deemed 
to be disobeying any divine law. 


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The House of Stir 163 

They must have been uncomfortable people to deal with, but 
the faith spread to such alarming proportions, that Salim-Shah 
finally called a Court of Arches to decide whether " Ilahi's per- 
tinaciously disrespectful manner to the king was consistent with 
his situation as a subject, or was enjoined by any precept of the 

He was subsequently tried on the accusation of presuming to 
personate the Great Mahdi— for whose advent all pious Mahomedans 
look — condemned, and refusing to abjure his faith, was brought up 
for punishment, though at the time suffering from the plague which 
was then raging. He died under the third lash. 

Almost immediately after this, Salim-Shah himself died, when 
his cousin Mobarik succeeded by a singularly brutal murder. 
Prince Fer6ze, Salim-Shah's son, was then twelve years old. His 
mother, Bibi Bhai, was Mobarik's sister, and devoted to her dis- 
solute, pleasure -loving brother, whose life she had begged of the 
king. Notwithstanding this, immediately on the tatter's death 
Mobarik entered the harem, tore the wretched boy from his 
mother's very arms, and killed him with his own hand. 

Fraternal affection with a vengeance. His subsequent career 
was in keeping with this initial act. Sensual to a degree and 
absolutely illiterate, he set a Hindu usurer called Hemu at the 
head of affairs, and contented himself with remaining in the 
harem, and parading the city with pomp, surrounded by a body 
of archers, whose duty it was to discharge gold-headed arrows 
worth ten or twelve rupees each amongst the crowd ; the scramble 
for them amusing the jaded satisty of this truly Eastern potentate. 

He succeeded in a.d. 1552, and for two years the throne was 
the centre of a perfect anarchy of revolt. 

Hemu, who seems to have had wits, held his own until faced 
by the returning Humayon, backed by that splendid old Turkoman 
soldier, Byram Khan. Backed also by the son, whom eleven years 
before he had left alone with his nurses in the royal camp on the 
road to Kandahar, and who now — an extremely youthful warrior — 
won back empire for his father by precipitating an action before 
the walls of Lah6re, in which the Moghuls, "animated by the con- 
duct of that young hero," seemed to forget that they were mortal. 

So ended the usurping dynasty of Sur, 


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A.D. 1542 TO A.D. 1556 

When Humayon and his Queen Hamida-Banu-Begum left the 
infant Akbar to face fortune by himself, their own hopes for the 
future were low indeed. Look where they would, there seemed 
small chance of success. 

India itself had practically become independent of Delhi, where 
the dreamful, opium-drugged king had thought to consolidate his 
empire by building a new capital. It is curious to mark in that 
fourteen-mile-long expanse of faintly-broken ground strewn with 
purple- stained bricks, which stretches between the massive ruins 
about the Kutb Minar to modern Delhi at the foot of the red ridge, 
how each succeeding dynasty had shifted its ground nearer and 
nearer the river, until at last it flowed beneath the very walls of 
the palace which Shah-jahan built, and where his descendant 
Bahadur- Shah carried on, in 1857, the conspiracy which led at 
last to the extinction of the Moghul dynasty. 

The long fight for Rajputana which had gone on for centuries so 
that the taking and retaking of its principal forts forms the stand- 
ing dish of every reign, had for the time ended in temporary 

Even at Chitore, Humayon's delay in coming to the rescue of his 
bracelet-bound sister had been unproductive of result ; for the 
Princess Kurnavati's young son Udai-Singh had escaped, and was 
now back in his own. r - 

The story of his escape is still a favourite one in India, and 
women, cuddling their babies, tell breathlessly how one Rajputni 
once gave her child to death to save a king. 

Little Udai-Singh, smuggled to safety with his foster-mother, 
found asylum in his half-brother's palace. But one night screams 
rose from the women's apartments, followed by the sudden ominous 



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The Wanderings of a King i6$ 

death-wail. Punnia, the foster-mother, knew what had happened. 
The half-brother must have been assassinated as a preliminary to 
the murder of her charge. She caught him up, thrust opium into 
his mouth with a last drop of her milk, hid him, still sleeping, in a 
fruit-basket, and sent him out by the hands of a faithful servant, to _ 
await her among the rushes of the river-bed. 

Then, throwing the little king's rich coverlet over her own child, 
she sat down to wait — for what ? 

For a question which she must answer. 

And yet, when it did come, human nature was almost too strong 
for her. She could only point to the little sleeper in reply to that 
clamour for "The King ! The King !" 

And still she had to wait. To weep reservedly over her own 
darling, to do him reverence, and so, the last ceremony over, steal 
away hastily to where her king waited her in the rushes. Then, 
dry-eyed, stern, she carried him, drawing life from her bereaved 
breast, over wild hill and dale, till, reaching the mountain fortress 
of Komulm£r, she could set her nurseling on the governor's knee, 
and say : " Guard him— he is the King ! " 

Udai- Singh, unfortunately, grew up unworthy of his foster- 
mother's sacrifice. Still, he held Chitore, and many another 
Rajput prince held other portions of the central tableland of 
India, whose rocky mountains form an ideal country for independ- 
ence and revolt. For the rest, as we have seen, the Dekkan, 
Guzerat, and Malwa were held by Mahomedan dynasties, as were 
the smaller principalities of Khandesh, Bengal, Jounpur, Multan, 
Sinde. Towards* the south-east the vast kingdom, mostly forest, 
of Orissa remained unexplored, and in the west, the whole narrow 
strip which includes the Western Ghits figures not at all in 
history. Yet it was on this narrow strip that the first grip of 
Europe on Hindustan was to be laid. 

Columbus was sailing the High Seas. The maritime nations, 
^^ Jtaly, England, Spain, were on the qui vive for new worlds, and 

in 1484— just a year after Babar was born on Valentine's day— one — , 
' Pedro de C oyilham set out for India, overland, by the orders of 
King John 67 Portugal, with instructions to return with a report 
as to the practicability of reaching Hindustan by sea. He reached 
India, being, apparently, the first European to touch its soil, but 
was detained on the return journey by the Arabs. 

Ere he reached home in a.d. 1525 (think of it I close on six- ri 
and-thirty years of imprisonment, oTexile), Portugal had acted on 


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1 66 The Middle Age* 

the advice which he had managed to send, God knows how. Vasco 
da Gama, leaving the Tagus in 1497, " coasted Guinea southwards, 
until he rounded into the Indian Ocean " ; so reached Calicut in 
a.d. 1498. It was the beginning. Almost each year that followed 
saw a fresh, and ever a larger armament sent out chiefly by the 
Portuguese Order of Christ, with the ostensible object of converting 
the heathen. We read of nine, of seventeen, finally, in 1507, of 
twenty-two ships carrying one thousand five hundred fighting-men, 
and the very first Viceroy of India, Dom Francesco Almeda. Goa 
was taken and made the seat of Government by Dom Alfonso 
Albuquerque — after a tussle for the Viceroyalty — in 15 10, and in 
1542 St Francis Xavier, joint founder of the Jesuits with Ignatius 
Loyola, went out on a mission and had an enormous success of 
marvellous stability, since to this day a large proportion of the 
population on the south-west coast is professedly Roman Catholic. 

Thus all India is practically accounted for in this, the first half 
of the sixteenth century. At a casual glance it seems as if here 
we have the vast continent tabulated, scheduled, within our reach. 
But a closer look shows us that "these dynasties, these wars, these 
annexations and depredations, are but scratches on the surface of 
life. The India of reality was, as ever, in the fields, heedless of 
politics, heedless of all things beyond the village cosmogony save 
that recurring cry of, " The Toorkh ! the Toorkh ! " 

That brought ruin, perchance death ; but after death comes life, 
after ruin prosperity. And the new masters, no matter who they 
were, were not on the whole bad masters. When the revenues 
of the state depend upon the peasantry and the peasantry only, 
it is not politic to press the revenue-giver too hardly. There can 
be small doubt, therefore, that the general state of the country 
was distinctly flourishing. The land-rent or land-tax, call it what 
you will, was high, but the land itself was abundant, the people 
who had to live on it not too numerous. And luxury did not come, 
as it came in Europe, to the lives of the poor to make them poorer 
still. The standard of living did not rise, women were content 
with the fashions of their mothers ; men asked no more than to be 
let live and die ; humanity was its own amusement. 

Practically, there was little difference in the system of Govern- 
ment under Hindu and Mahomedan rule. In both, the supreme 
power was easy of access. Petitions could be brought to the 
final authority without any difficulty, and a certain rough justice 
undoubtedly prevailed. 


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The Wanderings of a King 167 

The king hired and paid for a portion of the army which he 
mounted on his own horses, but a large number of men came in 
independent parties under leaders of their own. 

Such was the India which Humayon left behind him for twelve 
long years. His adventures during this time are less entertaining 
than the wanderings of that prince of Bohemians, his father, but 
they are still interesting. 

When he crossed the Persian border, he found himself received 
with a certain contemptuous pity. Still, female servants were 
sent to attend on the queen, and demonstrations were made in 
his favour. Arrived at the court of King Tahm&sp, however, the 
exiled monarch of India found himself by no means on a bed 
of roses. Even the gift of the greatest treasure he possessed, a 
huge diamond, did not ameliorate his situation ; for Shin Tahm&sp 
affected to despise the jewel, and is said to have sent it away 
disdainfully in a gift to the King of the Dekhan. But the whole 
history of this diamond, which has now disappeared, is a fine 
romance. It is said to have been the eye of Shiv-ji in some shrine, 
and to have passed into the possession of many conquerors, until 
it was given to Babar in recognition of chivalrous kindness and 
courtesy shown to them by the family of the Rajah of Chitore. 
Babar, who kept nothing for himself, gave the stone, " worth half 
the daily expenditure of the world," to his son. It is said to have 
weighed about 280 carats, and to have been of the purest water ; 
it is also conjectured that it reappeared as the Great Moghul 
diamond which Taverier describes as belonging to Shah-jahan, 
and that possibly it is this very stone which, cleft and badly cut, 
still shines as the Koh-i-nur. 

It did not, anyhow, avail Humayon much. More effective was 
his servile consent to wear the red cap of the Persian, and by this 
becoming a khizil bash^ renounce his Sunni faith, and proclaim 
himself a Shiah. He did not do this without much pressure, and 
at the very last nearly broke bondage ; but the promise of ten 
thousand horse wherewith to recover his kingdom was too tempt- 
ing. With this force he attacked Kandahar, where his brother 
Askari still held little Abkar as a hostage ; or, rather, had so held 
him until the attacking army loomed over the horizon, when, after 
some hesitation as to whether it would not be wiser to send the 
boy under honourable escort to his father, Askari decided on 
obeying his brother Kamran's orders, and despatched the little 
prisoner to Kabul. The story of that inclement winter march 


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1 68 . The Middle Age 

across the hills, with its attempts at rescue and numberless 
adventures, would make a charming book for English children. 

After five months siege, Kandahar surrendered, " Dearest Lady " 
having succeeded in obtaining a promise of pardon for Askari 
from his brother. It was revoked, however, in an altogether 
indefensible manner, and Askari was kept in chains for the next 
three years. This is so unlike Humayon's usual conduct towards 
his brothers, that it gives colour to the assertion made by some 
authorities that Askari's punishment was due to the discovery of 
a further offence. 

After Kandahar had capitulated, Humayon marched on Kamran 
and Kabul. This is the march rendered famous by Sir Donald 
Stewart in the Afghan War, and by Lord Roberts' subsequent 
and rapid repetition. It was now winter, which had set in with 
extraordinary severity, and much of the country was under snow. 
Half-way to Kabul Humayon was joined by his brother Hindal, 
who, with brief intervals of hesitation, appears to have been fairly 
faithful. Their amalgamated armies proved too formidable for 
Kamran to face, though at first he had prepared for extremities 
by removing little Akbar from his grand-aunt " Dearest Lady's " 
care, and giving the lad to a trusted creature of his own ; so 
flight to Ghuzni followed. The child, however, remained, and 
Humayon's delight at recovering his little son was great. Taking 
the boy in his arms, he exclaimed : " Joseph was cast by envious 
brethren into the pit ; but in the end he was exalted to great 
glory, as thou shalt be, my son." 

Only remaining in Kabul long enough to restore the young 
prince to safer keeping, Humayon set off in pursuit of his brother, 
who, finding the gates of Ghuzni closed against him, had fled 
to the Indus ; but while on this campaign Humayon fell so sick 
that his life was despaired of. After two months' confinement 
to bed he recovered, only to find himself deserted by his troops, 
and to hear that Kamran, returning to Kabul one dawn, had 
managed to slip in with a chosen band of followers as the city 
gates were being opened, had murdered the governor in his 
bath, had put out the eyes of Fazl and Muttro, the young prince's 
foster-brothers and playfellows, and had given the young prince 
himself into the charge of unkindly eunuchs. It was an anxious 
moment, and the almost despairing father, still weak from illness, 
set himself to beat up recruits and march to recover his capital, 
recover his son. Kamran's troops, meeting with a reverse in the 

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The Wanderings of a King 169 

suburbs of the city, where— this being April— the peach-blossom 
must have been all ablow, Humayon was enabled to establish 
himself on an eminence which commands the town, and to com- 
mence shelling it. Whereupon Kamran sent a message to say 
that if the cannonade continued, he would expose the young heir 
to all his fathers high hopes on the wall where the fire was 
hottest. A brutal threat, upon the carrying out of which history 
stands divided, some authorities saying that Akbar was so ex- 
posed, others declaring that Humayon ordered the artillery to 
cease firing. 

Be that as it may, on the 28th of April he entered the city 
in triumph, Kamran having fled the previous night. 

So little Akbar was once more in his father's arms. In his 
mother's also, ere long, for Hamida-Banu-Begum rejoined her 
husband in the spring. Regarding this, a pretty story is told 
by Aunt Rosebody in her Memoirs. Humayon, ever a lover of 
pleasure, devised a sumptuous entertainment to welcome his 
wife, and amongst the many devices for amusement was this. 
All the ladies of the family, unveiled, resplendent in jewels, were 
to range themselves in a circle round a hall ; and to this dazzling 
company the baby-prince — he was but four — was to be introduced 
to choose for himself a mother! One can imagine the scene. 
Those .laughing faces — all but one— around the child who had 
not seen her he sought for two long years. , The pause for 
hesitation, the sickening suffocation of one heart, the sudden 
sense of shyness, of loneliness, making one little mouth droop. 

And then ? 

Then a quick cry, " Atnna ! Amna-jdn I " and Hamida's arms 
closed convulsively over the sobbing child. What laughter! 
What tears ! As Auntie Rosebody loves to say of all things 
that bring the sudden vivifying touch of emotion, " It was like 
the Day of Resurrection." But the young Akbar's trials were 
not yet over, neither were his father's dangers. In the summer 
of 1548 Humayon once more pursued Kamran, taking with him 
at first both Akbar and Akbar's mother — for whom the king 
(or, as he was now called, the emperor) had an affection that never 
wavered. Finding the way rough, he sent them back to Kabul ; 
and when he marched out from that city the next time on the 
same bootless errand, he left the boy, who was now eight years 
old, behind him as Governor of K&bul, under tutorship. Where- 
upon Kamran, who appears to have had the faculty of doubling 


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1^0 The Middle Age 

like a hare, taking advantage of a serious wound which delayed 
his brother in the Sertun Pass, slipped to his rear, and for the 
third time captured Kibul and that apple of Hum&yon's eyes, 
Prince Akbar. 

This was the last of Kamran's exploits, however, for Humayon, 
after suffering agonies of fear lest evil should happen to his heir, 
gained a complete and final victory over his brother, who fled 
once more ; not, however, to the emperor's great relief, taking 
Akbar with him. He was soon after captured by the King of 
the Ghakkur tribe, that warlike race of the Indian Salt Range 
who broke the ranks of the Ghuzni Mahmud, and assassinated 
his successor in campaign, Ghori- Mahomed. Being immediately 
betrayed to Humayon, he met his fate at last. Yet even now, 
after treasons seventy-and-seven, he was nearly forgiven ; would 
have been forgiven but for the fact that Humayon's favourite 
brother, Hindal, had been killed in the pursuit of him. He deserved 
death, but the blindness which was meted out to him leaves us 
with a revulsion of feeling against the man who was driven by his 
adherents into giving the order. A revulsion which Humayon 
hardly deserved, since, opium-soddened, flighty in a way, un- 
reliable as he was, cruelty was not one of his faults. 

And the adherents were right. With Kamran scotched, 
Humayon's fortunes began at once to improve, and in 1535 he 
was able to invade the Punjab with fifteen thousand horse. 
Within a year he was once more Emperor in Delhi ; but not 
for long. Six months after he re-ascended the throne, before 
he had time even to take breath and look around him, he fell 
from the roof of his library, and died from the result of the 
accident four days afterwards. Visitors to Delhi are still shown 
the broken stairs from which he fell, and are told the story of 
how, descending the steps, he heard the call to prayer, and stopped 
to repeat the creed and sit down till the long sonorous sound of 
the mudzzim had ended. And how, in attempting to rise again, 
his staff slipped on the polished marble of the step. 

The parapet is certainly but a foot high ; but as one looks 
over it, and remembers that Humayon was a man in the prime 
of life, the wonder comes if the opium which claimed so large 
a share in the emperor's life had not an equal share in his death. 


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A.D. 1556 TO A.D. 1 605 

Here is a subject indeed I 

Considering the time — a time when Elizabeth of England found 
that England ready to support her in beheading her woman- 
cousin, when Charles IX. of France idly gave the order on 
St Bartholomew's Eve, and Pope Urban VI 1 1., representing the 
highest majesty of the Christian religion, forced the tortured, 
seventy-year-old Galileo to his knees, there to abjure by oath 
what he knew to be God's truth : considering the country — a 
country to this day counted uncivilised by Europe — there is 
small wonder that the record of Akbar seems incredible even 
to the owner of the hand which here attempts to epitomise that 

And yet it is a true one. Discounting to the full the open 
flattery of Abul-fazl's Akbarnamah, the source from which most 
information is derived, giving good measure to Budaoni's grudging 
criticisms, the unbiassed readers of Akbar's life cannot avoid 
the conviction that in dealing with him, they are dealing with a 
man of imagination, of genius. 

Between the lines, as it were, of bare fact, the unconventional, 
the unexpected crops up perpetually, making the mind start and 
wonder. As an instance, let us take the account of the great 
hunt at Bhera, near the river Jhelum, and let us take it in the 
very words of the historians. 

" The Emperor gave orders for a gamargha hunt, and that the 
nobles and officers should according to excellent methods enclose 
the wild beasts. . . . But, when it had almost come about that the 
two sides were come together, suddenly, all at once a strange state 
and strong frenzy came upon the Emperor ... to such an extent 
as cannot be accounted for. And every one attributed it to some 
cause or other . . . some thought that the beasts of the forest had 
with a tongueless tongue unfurled divine secrets to him. At this 
time he ordered the hunting to be abandoned. Active men made 
every endeavour that no one should even touch the feather of a 


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172 The Middle Age 

Now whether the legend which lingers in India be true or not, 
that it was the sight of a chinkara fawn which brought about the 
Emperor's swift change of front, we have here badly set down 
certain events which apparently were incomprehensible and but 
vaguely praiseworthy, even to Abul-fazl's keen eye for virtue in 
his master. Viewed, however, by the wider sympathies of to-day, 
the fact stands forth indubitably that the "extraordinary access of 
rage such as none had ever seen the like in him before" with 
which Akbar was seized, was no mere fit of epilepsy, such as the 
rival historian Budaoni counts it to have been, but a sudden over- 
mastering perception of the relations between God's creatures, the 
swift realisation of the Unity which binds the whole world together ; 
for it seems certain that he never again countenanced a battue. 

Now Akbar's life was full of such sudden insights. We see 
the effect of them in his swift actions ; actions so swift, so unerring, 
that they startle the dull world around him. He was that rare 
thing — a dreamer who was also a man of action. 

That he was full of faults none can deny, but, judging him by 
the highest canon, one feels bound to place him amongst those few 
names, such as Shakspeare, Michelangelo, Beethoven and Caesar, 
who seem to have had equal control over their physical and their 
subliminal consciousness ; and so, inevitably, head the lists of 
leaders amongst men. 

Of Akbar's early years enough has been said. From his birth 
in the sand-swept desert, to the day on which, a lad-ling of eight, 
he finally escaped the clutches of his uncle Kamran, and rode 
into his father's camp before Kabul at the head of a faithful con- 
tingent, he had suffered such constant vicissitudes of fortune that 
there can be no surprise at the belief, which grew up later, that he 
bore a charmed life. 

Of the next three years until, at the age of twelve, he marched 
with his father on India, and brought success by, with youthful 
energy, precipitating a decisive battle, nothing is known, save that 
he was married with much pomp to his cousin Razia-Khanum, 
daughter of his dead uncle Hindal, a woman many years his 

Akbar, then, was thirteen years and four months old when at 
Hariana, a town in the Jullunder district, he received the news of 
his father's accident, and almost at the same time those of his 
death. He, together with his governor, tutor, or, as it is called 
in Persian, atalik^ Byram - Khan, was engaged in pursuing 


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Akbar the Great 173 

Sikundah-Shah, the last scion of the House of Sur, and it seemed 
to them best, ere returning to Delhi, to secure the Punjab by 
securing Sikundah. But their decision proved of doubtful wisdom ; 
for Kabul instantly revolted, and Hemu, the shopkeeper-prime- 
minister of the third Suri king, with an army of fifty thousand 
men and five hundred elephants, marched on Delhi, flushed by 
his victories, to restore the late dynasty, and took the city. 

In this predicament, Akbar's counsellors advised retreat to 
Kabul. Its recovery seemed certain, and he could there await 
future developments. But Akbar's instincts were for empire, and 
Byram-Khan, the old Turkoman soldier, was with him. 

Delhi must be won back at all hazards ; so, not without trepida- 
tion, the old man and the boy crossed the river Sutlej, and were 
joined at Sirhind by Tardi-Beg, and the forces which had fled 
from Delhi. Now Tardi-Beg was a nobleman of the House of 
Chagatai (which also claimed the young king as its most dis- 
tinguished scion), and between him and Byram-Khan there had 
ever been enmity. The latter, therefore, taking as his excuse 
the over-haste of Tardi-Beg's retirement from Delhi, called him 
to his tent, and without referring to their youthful master, had 
him assassinated. The event, common enough in Indian history, 
is noteworthy, because it caused the first rift in the confidence 
between Byram and Akbar, who, boy as he was, showed his 
displeasure, and refused to accept the rough soldier's excuse that 
violence was necessary to assert power. 

The next breach was of the same kind. Passing by our old 
friend, the fort of Bhatinda, Akbar gave battle to Hemu on the 
old field at Paniput, where, thirty years before, his grandfather, 
Babar, had decided his fate. 

No doubt the thought of this had something to do with the 
renewed victory which left Hemu, sorely wounded, a prisoner in 
Byram's hands. Not satisfied with this, the savage old Tartar 
general brought him into Akbar's tent, and, presenting the boy 
with a sword, said : "This is your first war, my king. Prove your 
sword upon this infidel. ,, But Akbar drew back indignantly. 
" How can I strike one who is no better than a dead man ? " he 
replied hotly. "It is on strength and sense that a king's sword 
is tried." Whereupon Byram, incensed, no doubt, by the proud 
refusal, instantly cut down Hemu himself. 

They say the boy-king wept ; certain it is that he never forgot, 
never quite forgave, the incident. Next day, marching 53 miles 


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174 The Middle Age 

without a halt, Akbar entered Delhi, the acknowledged Emperor 
of India. 

What that India was, we know. On all sides was despotism ; 
good or bad government being the result of the personal equation 
of the despot. 

Akbar was to change much of this by wise, unalterable, and 
beneficent laws during the nine-and-forty years of his reign ; for 
the present, however, he was under tutelage, and the first four 
years after his accession passed without the young king's show- 
ing any of the markedly-original tendencies which characterised 
him in after life. 

But during those four years he was learning to recognise what 
he liked, what he disliked. Amongst the latter was the arbitrary 
exercise of Byr&m's power. This became more and more galling 
as the years sped by, and the boy, now growing to manhood, 
began to realise himself y began to dream dreams, began to see 
realities with a clearness and insight far beyond those of his tutor. 
But he had a generous, an affectionate heart. He hestitated long 
to throw off the yoke of tutelage and proclaim his determination 
to rule in his own way ; and despite the efforts of Byr&m's enemies 
— and he had many — added to the persuasions of Mah&m-Anag&h 
(Akbar's foster-mother, who all his life, from the day when, a 
yearling babe, he was left in her charge while his father and 
mother fled for their lives across the Persian frontier, had been his 
chief adviser), it was not till a.d. 1560 that Akbar made up his 
mind to action. Then, leaving Byrim engaged in a hunting 
expedition, he returned, on pretext of his mother's sudden illness, 
to Delhi and issued a proclamation announcing to his people that 
he had taken the sole management of affairs into his own hands, 
and that no orders, except those given under his own seal, should 
in future be obeyed. At the same time he sent a dignified 
message to Byr&m-Kh&n to this effect : — 

" Till now our mind has been taken up with our education and by 
the amusements of youth, and it was our royal will that you should 
regulate the affairs of our empire. But, it being our intention 
henceforward to govern our people by our own judgment, let our 
well-wisher withdraw from all worldly concerns, and taking the 
pilgrimage to Mecca on which he has for so long been intent, 
spend the rest of his days in prayer far removed from the toils of 
public life." 


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Akbar the Great 175 

The very dignity of this was, however, irritating, and Byram, 
after a brief feint of obedience, broke out into open revolt. 

It needed Akbar himself to reduce his disloyalty by a display of 
clemency which must have convinced the old Tartar that he had 
here to do with some one, with something, the like of which he had 
never seen before. For when, driven to bay, in utmost distress 
he sent in an almost hopeless appeal for pardon, Akbar's reply was 
the despatching of a guard of honour equal to his own to bring 
the unfortunate man to his presence with every mark of distinction. 
It was too much for the old soldier. His pride broke down, he 
flung himself at his young master's feet in a passion of tears. 
Akbar*s reply was to raise him by the hand, order a robe of 
honour to be flung round him, and to place him in his old seat 
by the king's side above all the other nobles. 

So in " the very loud voice/' and with " the very elegant and 
pleasant manner of speech " for which the young king was famous, 
he addressed him thus : — 

"If Byrim-Khin loves a military life, the governorship of Kaipe 
offers field for his ambition. If he prefers to remain at court, our 
favour will never be wanting to the benefactor of our family. But 
if he choose devotion, he shall be escorted to Mecca with all the 
honour due to his rank, and receive a pension of 50,000 rupees 

Byrim chose the last, and from that time Akbar reigned alone ; 
and, to his credit be it said, except in his disastrous leniency 
towards his sons, there is scarcely a mistake to be laid to his 
charge. Before, however, embarking on what must necessarily 
be a very inadequate sketch of this remarkable man, a few words 
as to his personality and his looks may not be amiss. He was 
"inclined to be tall, sinewy, strong, with an open forehead and 
chest and long arms. He had most captivating manners and an 
agreeable expression." According to his son, "his manners and 
habits were quite different from those of other persons, and his 
visage was full of a godly dignity." For the rest, he was a great 
athlete, the best polo-player and shot at court, and ready for any 
exploit that required strength and skill. 

His mind followed suit with his body, though he was absolutely 
unlike his grandfather Babar in versatility. Yet he had had, 
apparently, much the same opportunity of education. In both, 
the four years from eight to twelve were all that Fate gave them 


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176 The Middle Age 

for schooling ; but Babar emerged from his, a writer, a poet, a 
painter, a musician. Akbar, strange to say, could neither read 
nor write, but he was counted the first musician of his day. 

,Such was the man who at eighteen started to rule India on new 
lines, whose head held a new idea concerning kingship. The king 
according to this, should be the connecting link between his subjects. 
He should rule not for one but for all. Just as Asoka, nigh on two 
thousand years before, had protested that conquest by the sword 
was not worth calling conquest, so Akbar, whose soul in many 
ways followed close in thought to that of the old Buddhist king, 
felt, vaguely at first, afterwards more clearly, more concisely, that 
the king should be, as it were, the solvent in which caste and 
creed, even race, should disappear, leaving behind them nothing 
but equal rights, equal justice, equal law. To secure this, it was 
necessary to make all men forget conquest. 

It was a big idea, and to carry it through in the face of a society 
which deemed kingship a personal pleasure to be gained by a long 
purse or a stout arm, needed a strong will. 

But Akbar was young, and vital to his finger-tips. The first thing 
to be accomplished was to annex all India — as bloodlessly as he 
could. That is the first thing to be noticed in Akbar's rule. War, 
even from the beginning, was never to him anything but the lesser 
of two evils ; the other being disunion, decentralisation, consequent 

His first annexation was Malwa, where the governor, hard- 
pressed, " sought a refuge from the frowns of fortune " in Akbar's 
clemency. As a result of which he lived, and fought, and died, 
long years afterwards, in the service of the king, feeling his honour 
in no way impaired by his defeat. 

Immediately after this, Akbar had to choose between personal 
affection and abstract justice. His foster-brother, Adham-Khan, 
son to that Maham-Anagah whose kindly, capable breast had been 
the young king's refuge for so many years, began to give trouble. 
Lawless, dissolute, he presumed on the king's love for his former 
playfellow in a thousand ways. It was he who was chief actor 
in the tragedy of Rup-mati, the beautiful dancing-girl with whom 
Baz-Bahadur of Malwa lived for " seven long happy years, while 
she sang to him of love," and who killed herself sooner than 
submit to Adham- Khan's desires. This brought down on him the 
king's anger, but he defied it still more by assassinating the 
prime minister as he sate at prayers in Akbar's antechamber on 


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Akbar the Great 177 

the roof. Some say, and this is probably true, that the king, 
hearing the old man's cry, came out sword in hand to avenge him, 
but, restraining his wrath, ordered the murderer to be instantly 
thrown over the battlements. The story, however, is also told 
that the young Akbar, coming out from his sleeping-chamber, 
himself gripped the offender in his strong arms, and forcing him 
backward to the edge, paused for a last kiss of farewell ere he 
. sent the sin-stained soul to its account. It is, at least, more 

But either tale ends with the greatest of tragedies for the 
young king. Maham-Anagah, his more than mother, died of grief 
within forty days — died unforgiving. 

The task of consolidating his empire occupied Akbar for the 
next two years. It would be idle to attempt to follow him from 
the Nerbudda to the Indus, from Allahabad to Guzerat. One 
incident will give an idea of his swiftness, his extraordinary 
dash and courage. 

Returned from a long campaign on the north-western hills 
against his young brother, Mahomed Hakim, Akbar heard of 
renewed trouble with the Usbeks in Oude. Though it was then 
the height of the rainy season, he made a forced march over 
a flooded country, and arriving at the Ganges at nightfall, swam 
its swollen stream with his advanced guard, and after lying 
concealed till daybreak, sounded the attack. 

"The enemy, who had passed the night in festivity, little 
supposing the king would attempt to cross the river without 
his army, could hardly believe their senses when they heard 
the royal kettledrums." Needless to say, the rebels, surprised, 
were defeated, and, as usual, pardoned. This was Akbar's policy. 
To punish swiftly, then to forgive. Thus he bound men to him 
by ties of fear and love. Already he had conceived and carried 
out the almost inconceivable project of allying himself in honour- 
able and peaceful marriage with the Rajputs. Behari Mull, 
Rajah of Amb£r (or Jeypore), had given the king his daughter, 
while his son Bhagwandas, and his nephew Man- Singh, were 
amongst Akbar's most trusted friends, and held high posts in 
the imperial army. Toleration was beginning to bear fruit ; but 
Chi tore, the Sacred City, held out alike against annexation or 
cajolery. So it could not be allowed to remain a centre of 
independence, of revolt It was in a.d. 1568 that Akbar began 
its siege. Udai-Singh, the Fat King, had fled to the mountains, 



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178 The Middle Age 

being but a bastard Rajput in courage, leaving one J&imul in 
charge of the sanctuary of Rajput chivalry. 

It was a long business. Once an accident in the mines which 
Akbar was pushing with the utmost care, brought about disaster, 
and the siege had practically to be begun again. In the end, 
it was a chance shot which brought success. Alone, unattended, 
in darkness, Akbar was in the habit of wandering round his 
guards at night, marking the work done in the trenches, dreaming 
over the next day's plans. So occupied in a close-pushed bastion, 
he saw by the flare of a torch on the rampart of the city some 
Rajput generals also going their rounds. To snatch a matchlock 
from the sentry and fire was Akbar's quick impulse. 

It won him Chitore ; for the man who fell, shot through the 
head, was Jiimul himself. Next morning, Akbar went through 
scenes which he never forgot. He saw, as his grandfather 
had done, the great war - sacrifice of the Rajputs ; but, unlike 
Babar, he did not view it contemptuously. It made an indelible 
mark upon his soul. The story goes, that two thousand of the 
Rajput warriors escaped the general slaughter by the " stratagem 
of binding the hands of their women and children, and march- 
ing with them through the imperial troops as if they were a 
detachment of the besiegers in charge of prisoners." 

If this extraordinary tale be true, the explanation of it surely 
lies in Akbar's admiration ; an admiration which led him on 
his return to Delhi to order two huge stone elephants, formed 
of immense blocks of red sandstone, to be built at the gate- 
way of his palace. And on the necks of these elephants he 
placed two gigantic stone figures representing Jiimul and 
Punnu, the two Rajput generals who had so bravely defended 

It was during this siege that Akbar's friendship with the 
poet Faizi commenced. Five years younger than the young 
king, who was then but six-and-twenty years of age, Faizi, or 
Abul-faiz, as he is rightly named, was by profession a physician, 
by temperament an artist in the highest sense. Charmed by 
his varied talents, fascinated by his goodness, Akbar kept him 
by his side until he died nineteen years afterwards, when it 
is recorded that the king wept inconsolably. One thing they 
had in common — an unusual thing in those days — they were both 
extraordinarily fond of animals, especially of dogs. 
This friendship, bringing about as it did the introduction 


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Akbar the Great 179 

to Akbar of Abul-faiz's younger brother, AbuMazl, marks an 
important change in the king's mental development. 

Hitherto he had been strictly orthodox. In a way, he had 
set aside the problems of life in favour of his self-imposed 
task; henceforward his mind was to be as keen, as swift to 
gain spiritual mastery, as his body was to gain the physical 
mastery of his world. Possibly he may have been led to thought 
by the death in this year of his twin sons ; apparently these 
were the only children which had as yet been born to him, 
and at twenty-seven it is time that an Eastern potentate had 
sons. With him, too, the very idea of empire must have been 
bound up with that of an heir to empire. So it is no wonder 
that we find him overwhelmed with joy at the birth, in 1569, 
of Prince Salim. Yet his sons (he had three of them in Fate's 
good time) were to be the great tragedy of Akbar's life. Long 
years afterwards, when the baby Salim, whom he had welcomed 
verily as a gift from God, had grown to be a man, a cruel 
man, who ordered an offender to be flayed alive, Akbar, with 
a shiver of disgust, asked bitterly " how the son of a man who 
could not see a dead beast flayed without pain, could be guilty of 
such barbarity to a human being ? " 

How indeed ? Were they really his sons, these hard-drinking, 
hard-living young princes, who had no thought beyond the 
princelings of their age? 

This resentment, this disgust, however, was not to be for many 
years. Meanwhile, Akbar, having built the fort at Agra, that 
splendid building whose every foundation finds water, whose 
every stone is fitted to the next and chained to it by iron rings, 
began on his City of Victory, Fatehpur Sikri. 

And wherefore not, since sons had been born to his empire? 
It was wide by this time, but Guzerat was still independent and 
had to be brought within the net. 

It was in this campaign that Akbar nearly met his end in the 
narrow cactus lane at Sarsa, when he and the two Rajput chieftains, 
Bhagwan-das and Man-Singh, fought their way through their 
enemies, each guarding the other's head. 

Akbar's life is full of such reckless bravery, such wonderful 
escapes ; in this, at least, he was true grandson to Babar-of-the 

It was in the following year that the famous ride from Agra 
to Ahmedabad in nine days was made ; and, after all, somewhat 


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180 The Middle Age 

uselessly made, since the emperor was too chivalrous to take his 
enemy unawares, and, finding him asleep, ordered the royal 
trumpeters to sound a reveilUe before, after giving him plenty 
of time, the imperial party "charged like a fierce tiger." It is 
good reading all this, overburdened though the pages of the 
Akbarnamah— Abul-fazl's great History of his Master— may be 
with flatteries and digressions. 

But it is not in all this that Akbar's glory lies. It is in the far- 
reaching justice of his legal and administrative reforms, above all, 
in the reasons he gives for these reforms, that he stands unique 
amongst all Indian kings. We have, however, still to record his 
conquest of Bengal (where, it may be noted, he swam his rivers on 
horseback at the head of every detachment for pursuit, every 
advance guard), still to tell the tale of the Fat King Udai-Singh's 
son, Rajah Pertap, before at Fatehpur Sikri, in the twentieth year 
of his reign, and the thirty-third of his life, we can find pause 
to consider Akbar's principles and practice. Bengal, then, was 
added to empire with the usual rapidity. Then arose trouble 
in Mgwar. Udai-Singh was dead, still defying from a distance 
Akbar's power, still scorning the alliance by marriage which had 
brought his neighbours revenue and renown ; but his son Pertap 
lived — Pertap, who was to the sixteenth century what Prithvi-Raj 
had been to the fourteenth ; that is to say, the flower of Rajput 
chivalry, the idol of the men, the darling of the women. He 
had taken to the hills, he had outraged Akbar's sense of justice, 
and he must be crushed. The battle of Huldighat decided his 
fate. Wounded, wearied, he fled on his grey horse " Chytuc " up a 
narrowing stony ravine, behind him the clatter of another horse 
swifter than his own ; for " Chytuc," his friend, his companion, was 
wounded, too, and more wearied even than wounded. 

"Ho! ntla-gh6ra-ki-aswdrf n 

[" Oh ! Rider of the grey horse ! "] 

The cryrang out amid the echoing rocks. What ! Washis enemy 
within call already ? " Chytuc " stumbled on, urged by the spur. 

" Ho I nila-ghdra-ki-aswdr 1 " 

Nearer and nearer 1 A cry that must be answered at last. One 
final stumble, " Chytuc " was down, and Pertap turned to sell life 
dearly. Turned to find his brother. 

"Thy horse is at its end — take mine," said Sukta, who long* 
years before had gone over to Akbar's side, driven thither by 
Pertap's pride. 


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Akbar the Great 181 

"And thou ? M 

" I go back whence I came." 

Those who had watched the chase from the plains below asked 
for explanations. They were given. 

"Tell the truth," came the calm reply. 

Then Sukta told it. Drawing himself up, he said briefly : 

" The burden of a kingdom over-weighted my brother. I helped 
him to carry it." 

Needless to say, the excuse was accepted. And to this day the 
cry, " Ho / ntta-ghSra-ki-aswdr? is one of the war-cries of the 

To return to Akbar, in the twentieth year of his reign. It was 
just ten years since Faizi had come into his life — Faizi, the first 
Mahomedan to trouble his head about Hindu literature, Hindu 
science. It bad opened up a new world to Akbar, and when six 
years afterwards Abul-fazl entered into the emperor's life also, with 
his broad, clear, tolerant, critical outlook, and his intense personal 
belief in the genius of the man he served, it seemed possible to 
achieve what till then Akbar had almost despaired of achieving. 
The dream bad always been there. In some ways be had gone 
far towards realising it. He had, early in his reign, abolished the 
capitation tax on infidels, and the tax on pilgrimages, his reason 
for the latter being, "that although the tax was undoubtedly on a 
vain superstition, yet, as all modes of worship were designed for 
the One Great Being, it was wrong to throw any obstacle in the 
way of the devout, and so cut them off from their own mode of 
intercourse with their Maker." 

Then he had absolutely forbidden the slavery of prisoners of 
war ; and having observed, both during his many campaigns and 
his still more numerous bunting expeditions, that the greater 
portion of the land he traversed remained uncultivated, he had set 
himself, alone, unaided — for his courtiers were content with con- 
ventionalities—to find out the cause. The land was rich, the 
cultivators were industrious ; the reason must lie in something 
which made cultivation unprofitable. What was it ? An excessive 
land-tax? He instantly started experimental farms, which con- 
vinced him that this, and nothing else, was the cause of the land 
lying idle. But on all sides he met with opposition. Convinced 
himself that the old methods were obsolete, he bad almost given up 
the task of reform in despair, when he met Abul-fazl. In religious 
matters, too, he had gone far beyond his age. The intolerance 


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1 82 The Middle Age 

the bigotry of those around him shocked his innate sense of justice. 
Here again Abul-fazl was a tower of strength, and, inch by inch, 
yard by yard, his support enabled the king to fight for his final 
position, until in 1577, after endless discussions in the House-of- 
Argument (which he had had built for the purpose, and where, 
night after night, he sate listening while doctors of the law, ' 
Brahmans, Jews, Jesuits, Sufis — God only knows what sects and 
creeds — discussed truth from their varying standpoints), he took 
the law into his own hands and practically forced the learned 
Ulemas to put their signatures to a document which proclaimed 
him Head-of-the-Church, the spiritual as well as the temporal 
guide of his subjects. The reason he gave for desiring this deci- 
sion was, that as kings were answerable to God for their subjects, 
any division of authority in dealing with them was inexpedient. 

So in 1579 he mounted the pulpit in his Great Mosque at 
Fatehpur Sikri, and read the Kutbah prayer in his own name in 
these words, written for the occasion by the poet Faizi : — 

" Lo ! from Almighty God I take my kingship, 
Before His throne I bow and take my judgeship, 
Take Strength from Strength, and Wisdom from His Wiseness, 
Right from the Right, and Justice from His Justice. 
Praising the King, I praise God near and far — 
Great is His Power ! Allah-hu-Akbar ! " 

They were not unworthy words ; and they were, as Sir William 
Hunter well calls them, the Magna Charter of Akbar's reign. He 
was now free to realise all his long-cherished dreams of universal 
tolerance and absolute" unity. In future, no distinctions of race 
and creed were held cogent. The judicial system was reorganised 
and the magistracy made to understand that the question of 
religion was no longer to enter into their work. 

The whole revenue administration was altered, and it remains 
to this day practically as Abkar left it. In this, as in finance and 
currency, he was ably aided by T6dar-Mull, a Hindu of exceptional 
ability and tried integrity. 

But Akbar was fortunate in his friends. In addition to Faizi, 
who appears to have satisfied his philosophic instincts, and Abul- 
fazl, to whose clear eyes he always turned when in doubt, he had 
a third intimate companion who, in many ways, stood closest to 
him of the three. 

This was Rajah Birbal, who began life as a minstrel. His pure 


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Akbar the Great 183 

intellectuality, his quaint humour and cynical outlook on life, seem 
to have given Akbar the nerve tonic, which, dreamer as he was 
at times, he seems to have needed ; for like all really great men, 
the emperor was almost feminine in sensitiveness. 

It is difficult to decide what his own personal creed was. That 
which he promulgated as the Divine Faith is a somewhat nebulous 
Deism. That which is credited to him in the following words is 
poetically mystical : — 

"In every Temple they seek Thee, in every Language they 
praise Thee. Each Religion says that it holds Thee, the One. 
But it is Thou whom I seek from temple to temple ; for Heresy 
and Orthodoxy stand not behind the Screen of thy Truth. Heresy 
to the Heretic, Orthodoxy to the Orthodox ; but only the dust 
of the Rose Petal remains to the seller of perfume." 

Behind all this there lies the conviction so strongly expressed 
that " not one step can be made without the torch of truth," that 
u to be beneficial to the soul, belief must be the outcome of clear 

But the chronicle of the remainder of his reign claims us. 

In 1584 he outraged the orthodox by choosing a Rajputni 
J6dh-Bai, the daughter of Rajah Bhagwan-das, as the first wife of 
his son and heir, Prince Salim. 

He himself had left such things as marriage behind him, and, 
though still in the prime of years, led the life of an ascetic. Five 
hours sleep sufficed for him ; he ate but sparingly once a day ; 
wine and women he appears to have forgotten. There is a saying 
attributed to him of his regret that he had not earlier recognised 
all women as sisters. Certainly for the last five-and-twenty years 
of his life he had nothing in this respect wherewith to reproach 
himself. Wider interests absorbed him. Child-marriages had to 
be discountenanced, abolished by a sweep of the pen ; education 
placed on a firmer, better basis. It seemed to him, as it seems 
to many of us to-day, that an unconscionable time was spent in 
teaching very little, and, hey presto ! another sweep of the pen, 
and school-time was diminished by one-half. There is nothing 
so dynamic as a good despotism ! 

All this was crowded, literally crammed into a few peaceful 
years at Fatebpur Sikri, and then suddenly he left his City of 
Victory, the city that was bound up with his hope of personal 
empire, the city he had built to commemorate the birth pf his heir. 


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1 84 The Middle Age 

and removed his capital, not to Delhi, but to the far north— to 

Why was this ? 

It is said that a lack of water at Fatehpur was the cause. And 
yet with the river Jumna close at hand, and Akbar's wealth and 
boundless energies, what was a lack of water had he really been 
set on remaining there ? 

It seems as if we must seek for a cause behind this patent and 
pitiful one. Such cause, deep-seated, scarcely acknowledged, is 
surely to be found in the bitter disappointment caused to the 
emperor by his sons. From his earliest years Salim had given 
trouble. At eighteen he was dissolute, cruel, arrogant beyond 
belief. His younger brothers, Murad and Danyal, were little better. 
Of the three, Murad was the best ; it was possible to think of him 
as his father's son. Yet the iron must have eaten into that father's 
soul as he saw them uncomprehending even of his idea, his dream. 
In leaving Fatehpur Sikri, as he did in 1585, therefore, it seems 
likely that he left behind also much of his personal interest in 

The ostensible cause of his northward journey was the death of 
his brother, and a consequent revolt in Kabul ; but he did not 
return for fourteen long years— years that while they brought him 
success, while they justified his wisdom, brought him also much 
sorrow and disappointment. Though both earlier historians and 
Western commentators fail, as a rule, to notice it, there can be no 
doubt to those who, taking Akbar's whole character as their guide, 
attempt to read between the lines, that the emperor's policy 
changed greatly after he left Fatehpur Sikri behind him. A 
certain personal note is wanting in it. Take, for instance, the war 
which he carried out in the province of Swat, and which ended in 
a disaster that cost him his dearest friend, Rajah Birbal. Now 
that disaster was due entirely to this new note in Akbar's policy. 
He did not desire conquest ; not, at least, conquest on the old 
blood-and-th under lines. He wished, and he ordered, what we 
should nowadays call a "peaceful demonstration to the tribes." 
The army was to march through the Swat territory, using as little 
violence as possible, and return. The idea was outrageous to the 
regulation general, so Abul-fazl and Birbal drew lots as to which 
of them should go and keep Zein- Khan's martial ardours in check. 
It fell on Birbal, much, it is believed, to Akbar's regret. Of the 
exact cause of disagreement between Birbal and Zein-Khan little 


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Abkar the Great 185 

is known ; but they did disagree, and with disastrous results. The t 
whole Moghul army was practically overwhelmed, and it is supposed 
that Birbal, in attempting escape by the hills, was slain. His 
oody was never found. Elphinstone, in his History, accuses Abul- 
fazl of giving a confused and contradictory account of this event, 
"though he must have been minutely informed of its history " ; 
but a little imagination supplies a cause for this : Abul-fazl knew 
that Birbal was undoubtedly acting on the king's orders. 

The emperor for a long time refused even to see Zein-Kh&n, 
and he was inconsolable for the loss of his friend — his greatest 
friend — who had known his every thought It is said, indeed, 
that these two men, both keenly interested in the answer to 
the Great Riddle of Life, the one Agnostic, the other hopeless 
Optimist by virtue of his genius, had agreed that they would 
come back the one to the other after death if possible, and 
that therein lay Akbar's strange eagerness to credit the many 
reports which gained currency, that Birbal had been seen again 

There can be no doubt but that the loss of his friend saddened 
the remainder of Akbar's life. Indeed, it may be said that from 
the year in which he quitted Fatehpur Sikri, thus abandoning his 
Town of Conquest to the flitting bats, the prowling hyenas, the 
year also of BirbaPs loss, a cloud seems to fall over the gorgeous 
pageant of Akbar's royalty. 

Just before this, however, on the very eve of departure, an event 
occurred at Fatehpur Sikri which in itself, had the Dreamer- King 
but possessed second sight, would have been sufficient to dim the 
lustre of his personal life. 

For in 1585 three travellers from England arrived with a letter 
from Elizabeth their queen, to one " Yeliabdin Echebar, King of 
Cambaya, Invincible Emperor." 

The letter is worth giving : — 

" The great affection which our subjects have to visit the most 
distant places of the world, not without good intention to introduce 
the trades of all nations whatsoever they can, by which meanes the 
mutual and friendly traffique of merchandise on both sides may 
come, is the cause that the bearer of this letter, John Newberie, 
joyntly with those that be in his company, with a courteous and 
honest boldnesse, doe repaire to the borders and countreys of your 
Empire ; we doubt not but that your Imperial! Maiestie, -through 
your royal grace, will favourably and friendly accept him. And 


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1 86 The Middle Age 

that you wold doe it the rather for our sake, to make us greatly 
beholden to your Maiestie, wee should more earnestly, and with 
more words, require it, if wee did think it needful. 

" But, by the cingular report that is of your Imperiall Maiestie's 
humanitie in these uttermost parts of the world, we are greatly 
eased of that burden, and therefore we use the fewer and lesse 
words ; only we request, that because they are our subjects, they 
may be honestly entreated and received. And that in respect of 
the hard journey which they have taken to places so far distant, 
it would please your Maiestie with some libertie and securitie of 
voiage to gratify it with such privileges as to you shall seem good : 
which curtesie of your Imperiall Maiestie shall to our subjects 
at our request perform, wee, according to our royal honour, will 
recompense the same with as many deserts as we can. And 
herewith wee bid your Imperiall Maiestie to farewell." 

Akbar's answer was to give the travellers safe conduct. So 
John Newbery, of Aleppo, after seeing all that was to be seen, 
journeyed Punjab-ways, to be never again heard of. Ralph Fitch, 
merchant of London, went south-eastward to find the Great 
Delta of the Ganges, and so return to England, and by his 
report, help to start the first British venture to the East ; and 
William Leedes, jeweller, who had learnt his trade in Ghent, 
remained' to cut gems for Akbar. 

A notable event, indeed, this first touch of England on India. 
And it happened when the Moghul dynasty was at the height of 
its power, when Akbar Emperor, indeed, had but one failure in his 
life — his sons. 

Surely it must have been some prescience of what was to come, 
which made him, so soon after giving that safe conduct, leave 
the outward and visible sign of his personal hold on Empire — 
the City of his Heirs— a prey to the owl and the bat ? 

Akbar's fourteen-year stay in the Punjab, spent partly at the 
Fort of Attock, which he built, and which still frowns over the 
rushing Indus, and at Lah6re, was marked by the annexation of 
Kashmir, which was effected with very little bloodshed. Owing 
to the difficulty of the passes, the first expedition made terms 
with the ruling power, by which, while the sovereignty of the 
Moghul was ceded, his interference was barred. This did not 
suit Akbar's dream of united, consolidated government. So he 
refused to ratify the treaty, and when the winter snows had 
melted, sent another expedition to enforce his claim to rule. 

Dissensions due to bad government were rife in Kashmir. 
The troops detailed to defend the Pir-Punjal pass were disloyal. 
Half, deserted to the invading force, the remainder retired on the 

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Akbar the Great 187 

capital. Whereupon, the whole valley lying at the mercy of the 
Moghul, terms were dictated. 

Akbar himself went twice into Kashmir. Those who have been 
fortunate enough to see the indescribable beauties of its lakes, its 
trees, its mountains, can imagine how it must have appealed to a 
man of his nature. 

Sinde and Kandahar followed Kashmir swiftly into the wide net 
of Moghul influence, and took their places quietly in the emperor's 
Dream of Empire. Kabul followed in its turn. While there, 
Akbar suffered a severe blow in the news of the death in one day — 
though at different places and causes— of two of his most trusted 
friends and adherents, Rajah Todir - Mull, the great Finance- 
Minister, and Rajah Bhagwan-das, his first Rajput ally. 

The Dekkan was in process of being netted also, when another 
and still heavier blow fell on the emperor in the death of his 
second — and, in many ways, most promising — son, Murad. He 
died, briefly, of drink. 

But the worst blow was the conduct of his son and heir, Salim, 
which in 1598 made it necessary for his father to leave Lahore for 
Agra, in order to check the prince's open rebellion. He was now 
thirty — arrogant, dissolute, passionate in every way ; and, finding 
himself as his father's viceroy at the head of a large army, made 
a bid for the crown, while his father's forces were engaged in the 

But Akbar's love made him patient. He wrote an almost 
pitiful letter of dignified tolerance. His affection, he said, was 
still undiminished. Let his son return to duty, and all would be 

Salim chose the wiser part of submission, but even as he did 
so, prepared to wound his forgiving father to the uttermost. 

Abul-fazl was on his way back from the Dekkan, and Prince 
Salhn instigated the Rajah of Orchcha to lay an ambuscade for 
this old, this most beloved companion of the king. 

History says that he and his small force defended them- 
selves with the greatest gallantry, but were eventually cut to 
pieces. Abul-fazFs head was sent to Prince Salim, who, how- 
ever, had craft ; for his father, mercifully, never knew whose was 
the hand that really dealt the death-blow. Had he done so, 
his grief would have been even greater than it is reported to 
have been. He touched no food for days ; neither did he 
Akbar, indeed, was fast becoming almost unnerved by his 

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1 88 The Middle Age 

tenderness of heart. Salim, professedly repentant, abandoned 
himself to still further debaucheries at Allahabid. 

As a last resource, a last effort, Akbar resolved, in a personal 
interview, to appeal to his son's better feelings. 

He had hardly started from Agra, however, when he was re- 
called to his mother's death -bed. It was yet another shock to 
Akbar, who, ever since that day of choice, when, surrounded by 
smiling, expectant faces, he bad stood frightened, almost tearful, 
then with a cry found — he knew not how — Hamida-Begum's loving 
arms, bad held his mother as be held no other woman in the 

Something of the pity of it must have struck even SalfaVs 
passion-torn heart, for he followed his father and gave in his 
submission. Not for long, however. Akbar could not be hard 
on those he loved. The restraint was soon slackened; the 
physicians who were to break the drug-habit sent to the right- 
about, and the patient restored to freedom and favour. 

And still Fate had arrows in store for poor Akbar's wounded 
heart Prince Danyai, his youngest son, drank himself to death 
in the thirtieth year of his age, having accomplished his object 
by liquor smuggled to him in the barrel of his fowling piece. 

A pretty prince, indeed, to be the son of the greatest king 
India has ever known. 

This rapid succession of sorrow left the emperor enfeebled. 
He had always been a hard worker, had spared himself not at all ; 
now Nature was revenging herself on him for his defiance of fatigue. 
As he lay dying in the fort at Agra, the emperor, bereft of 
his friends, worse than bereft of his sons, had but one comfort 
— his grandson, Prince Khurram, who afterwards succeeded his 
father under the title of Sh&h-jah&n. A word from Akbar might 
have set him on the throne ; but the father was loyal to his dis- 
loyal son. He summoned his nobles around him, and his personal 
influence was still so great that not a voice of dissent was raised 
against his declaration of Prince Salim — little Shaikie, as he 
still called him at times — as his heir. 

Akbar died at sixty-three, almost his last words being to ask 
forgiveness of those who stood about his bed, should he ever in 
any way have wronged any one of them. 

The Mahomedan historians assert loudly that he also repeated 
the Orthodox creed ; but this is not likely. He had wandered 
too far from the fold of I slim to find shelter from death in it. 
So died a man who dreamt a dream, who turned that dream 

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Akbar the Great 189 

into a reality for his lifetime ; but for his lifetime only. Fate 
gave him no future. 

Even his enemies admit with a sneer, saying he had it a 
gift from a Hindu jogi, his almost marvellous power of seeing 
through men and their motives at a glance. Did he ever, we 
wonder, look at his own face in the glass, and see written there 
his failure? 

Most of his administrative reforms exist to the present day. 
Some, such as the abolition of suttee and the legislation for 
widow remarriage which he enforced easily, nearly cost us 
India to establish. 

But Akbar had the advantage of being a king indeed. 

" There is but one God, and Akbar is his Viceroy." 

Such was his first motto. If it made him a despot, his second 
one made him tolerant. 

"There is good in all things. Let us adopt what is good, 
and discard the remainder." And this admixture of despotism 
and tolerance is the secret of Indian statesmanship. 

Akbar was the most magnificent of monarchs ; but all his 
magnificences held a bint of imagination. Whether in the 
scattering amongst the crowd by the king's own hand, as he 
passed to and fro, of dainty enamelled rose-leaves, silvern jasmine- 
buds, or gilded almonds, or in the daily Procession of the Hours, 
all Akbar's ceremonials have reference to something beyond the 
weary, workaday world. In the midst of it all he was simplicity 

No better conclusion to this ineffectual record of his reign 
can be given than this description of him by a European eye- 
witness : — 

" He is affable and majestical, merciful and sincere. Skilful in 
mechanical arts, as making guns, etc. ; of sparing diet, sleeping 
but three hours a day, curiously industrious, affable to the vulgar, 
seeming to grace them and their presents with more respective 
ceremonies than those of the grandees ; loved and feared of his 
own ; terrible to his enemies." 

One word more. He invariably administered justice sitting or 
standing below the throne ; thus declaring himself to be the 
mere instrument of a Supreme Power to which he also owned 

So not without cause did this record begin by calling Akbar 
a Dreamer. 


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jahAngir and nurjahAn 

A.D. 1605 TO A.D. 1627 

These names, "Conqueror of the World" and " Light of the World," 
are inseparable. 

It is as well they should be so, for they supply us with the 
only excuse which Prince Salim could put forward for the 
curious animosity that for many years went hand in hand with 
his undoubted affection and respect for his great father, Akbar ; 
the excuse being that he had been crossed in love, real, genuine 
love, by that father's absurd sense of justice. 

The story will bear telling. 

There was a poor Persian called Mirza or "Prince" Ghiiss, 
of good family but abjectly poverty-stricken, who, finding it 
impossible to live in his own country, determined to emigrate 
to India with his family. On the way thither, his wife, Bibi Azizan, 
somewhat of a feckless fashionable, was delivered of another 
daughter. Already in dire distress, the parents felt unable to 
cope with this fresh misfortune. So they left the child by the 
wayside. The chief merchant of the caravan by which they 
were travelling,, happening to come along the same road a few 
hours afterwards, found the baby, and being struck by its beauty, 
determined to rear it as his own. 

Now in a travelling caravan wet-nurses are rare. Small wonder, 
then, that the infant, whom the merchant had instantly called 
the "Queen of Women" (Mihr-un-nissa), should find its way 
back to its mother. This led to explanations. The merchant, 
discovering the father to be much above his present position, 
employed him in various ways, and became interested in his 

This led to his being brought to Akbar's notice, who, finding 
him straightforward and capable, advanced him until he rose 



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Jah&ngir and Nurjah&n 191 

to be Lord High Treasurer of the Empire. A fine position, 
truly, especially for Bibi Azizan, who, amongst the ladies of 
the court, was noted for the dernier cri of fashion both in 
dress and perfume. It was she, briefly, who invented the attar 
of rose, which at first sold for its weight in gold. 

Now Bibi Azizan was a matchmaking mamma, and in little 
Mihr-un-nissa she had a pretty piece of goods to bring to market. 
A thousand pities, indeed, that husband Gbiiss, honest man, 
had already allowed talk of betrothal with young Sher-Afkan 
of the King's Light Horse. All the more pity because there 
was Prince Salim giving his father trouble despite the Rajput 
wife they had given him. 

That Bibi Azizan cast nets is fairly certain ; but it was Fate 
which sent the bird into them. 

It was after one of Akbar's favourite diversions, a Paradise 
Bazaar, when the lords and ladies of the court had been playing 
pranks, that Salim first saw the girl who was, long years afterwards, 
to be his good genius. The tale may be fully told in verse of how — 

** Long ago, so runs the story, in the days of King Akbar, 
'Mid the pearly-tinted splendours of the Paradise Bazaar, 
Young Jahangir, boyish-hearted, playing idly with his dove, 
Lost his boyhood, lost his favourite, lost his heart, and found his love. 
By a fretted marble fountain, set in 'broidery of flowers, 
Sat a girl, half-child, half-maiden, dreaming o'er her coming hours. 
Wondering vaguely, yet half guessing, what the harem women mean 
When they call her fair, and whisper, • You are born to be a queen '. 
Curving her small palms, like petals, for their store of glistening spray, 
Gazing in the sunny water where in rippling shadow lay 
Lips that ripen fast for kisses, slender form of budding grace, 
Hair that frames with ebon softness a clear, oval, ivory face. 
Arched and fringed with velvet blackness from their shady depths her 

Shine as summer lightning flashes in the dusky evening skies. 
Mihr-un-nissa, Queen of Women, so they call the little maid 
Dreaming by the marble fountain where but yesterday she played. 
Heavy sweet the creamy blossoms gem the burnished orange groves, 
Through their shade comes Prince Jehangir, on his wrist two fluttering 

• Hold my birds, child ! ' cries the stripling, ' I am tired of their play ', 
Thrusts them in her hands, unwilling, careless saunters on his way. 
Culling posies as he wanders from the flowers rich and rare, 
Heedless that the fairest blossom 'mid the blaze of blossom there 
Is the little dreaming maiden by the fountain-side at rest 
With the orange-eyed, bright-plumaged birds of love upon her breast. 


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i92 The Middle Age 

Flowers fade and perfume passes ; nothing pleases long to-day ; 
Back toward his feathered fav'rites soon the Prince's footsteps stray. 
Dreaming still sits Mihr-un-nissa, but within her listless hold 
Only one vain-struggling captive does the lad, surprised, behold. 

• Only one ? ' he queries sharply. ' Sire ', she falters, ' one has flown ! ' 
' Stupid ! How? ' The maiden flushes at his quick imperious tone. 

' So ! my lord ! ' she says defiant, with a curving lip, and straight 
From her unclasped hands the other circling flies to join its mate. 
Heavy sweet the creamy blossom gems the burnished orange tree, 
Where the happy doves are cooing o'er their new-found liberty. 
Startled by her quick reprisal, wrath is lost in blank surprise, 
Silent stands the heir of Akbar, gazing with awakening eyes 
At the small rebellious figure, with its slender arms outspread, 
Face half frowns, half laughter, royal right of maidenhead. 
Slowly dies the flush of anger as the flush of evening dies, 
Slowly grow his eyes to brightness as the stars in evening skies. 

* So, my lord ! ' So Love had flitted from the listless hand of Fate, 
And the heart of young Jehangir, like the dove, had found its mate ! " 

Such is the tale which, even nowadays, the women of India 
love to tell, bewailing the unkind destiny which separated the 
lovers for nearly twenty years. But, as a matter of fact, there 
is no evidence to prove that the little Queen -of- Women fell in 
love with the prince at all. On the contrary, it seems probable 
that, being a girl of great sense as well as great beauty, she 
preferred her father's young soldier to her mother's somewhat 
debauched heir to a throne. Certain it is, however, that the 
orthodox Mahomedan faction would have viewed with favour 
the introduction of a Mahomedan bride. Akbar, however, possibly 
from political motives, ostensibly because of the previous promise, 
vetoed the match, and giving the young soldier-bridegroom an 
estate in Bengal, sent him thither with his disturbing wife. Here 
they seem to have been very happy. But Jah&ngir did not 
forget, and the fact that fourteen years afterwards, at least, 
one of the very first acts of his reign was to send to Bengal, 
pick a quarrel with Sher-Afkan (who appears to have acted as 
an honest and upright gentleman by point-blank refusing to 
be bribed), and treacherously killing him, carry off his wife, makes 
one pause to wonder whether Jahangir's life might not have been 
a better one had his inclinations towards this most masterful 
woman not been thwarted. 

It is a curious story altogether, one which needs reading 
between the lines. Not the least curious part of it being the 
fact that Jahangir, passionately lustful as he must have been 


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Jahdngir and Nurjah&n 193 

by the time when, as a man of nigh forty, he gained actual 
possession of Nurjahan, used no force towards her. He accepted 
her scornful rejection of her husband's murderer, and after months 
spent in the endeavour to soothe and conciliate her, accepted his 

For six long years Nurjahan lived at the court as one of the 
attendants of Jahangir's Rajput mother, refusing any pension 
from the hand of the man who had killed Sher-Afkan, and 
supporting herself entirely by her exquisite skill in embroidery 
and painting. 

And then ? 

It is customary to say that ambition overcame her scruples ; 
but the seeing eye, reading between the lines, may find a 
womanly pity for the man who in the prime of life had lost 
all control over himself, and who sorely needed help. She was 
a clever, a fascinating woman ; and no woman could quite 
keep her head before such long constancy as his. 

It needed little to bring him back. The story runs, that a 
single visit to her rooms, where, dressed in the simple white 
which she always wore after her widowhood, she received him 
gravely, kindly, was sufficient. 

They were married almost immediately, and from that time 
the woman whom he had first seen as a little maiden beside 
the fountain was the one over-mastering influence in his life. 

Thus before we begin even on Jah&ngir's career we must 
concede to him the grace of being a constant lover. 

The six years which had passed since he had succeeded to his 
father had been fairly peaceful ones. 

He had found the whole of his vast empire tranquil. The Rana 
of Oudipur, it is true, was still unvanquished ; but the thorn of 
Chi tore had almost ceased to rankle from its sheer persistence. 
The Dekkan was also disloyal ; but there was no pressure of 
battle, no stress of struggle anywhere, for Jah&ngir's eldest son, 
Kbushrou (Fair Face), had, after years of open enmity, subsided 
for the time into sullenness and dejection. 

But almost the very first act of Jahangir's administration was 
one which, as it were, swept away the whole foundation of the 
empire which Akbar had built up. 

He restored the Mahomedan confession of faith to the coins 
of the realm, thus giving the casting vote to a creed. 

It was the first nail in the coffin of Unity. 


Digitized by VjOOQIC 

194 The Middle Age 

For the rest, Jahangir evidently did his best for a while. He 
issued a few edicts, notably one against drug-takers and dram- 
drinkers, he all the while continuing his notorious habits. 

Just before his marriage with Nurjahan, the Dekkan gave him 
serious trouble. An Abyssinian slave called Malik- Amber rose 
to power and swept all before him, compelling the Imperial 
troops to retire. But in Bengal peace was restored, and after 
many successes Oudipur succumbed to a final attack from Prince 
Khurram, Jahingir's second son, who afterwards reigned as Shah- 
jahan. The emperor's delight on this occasion was childlike. 
In a rather inefficient and unreal diary, which he kept in imitation 
of his great-grandfather Babar, he records how the very day after 
the arrival of some captured elephants from Chitore, he sent for 
the largest of these and " went abroad mounted on Alam-goman, 
to my great satisfaction, and distributed gold in great quantity." 

But in all ways he appears to have been blatant, even in his 
good humours. And these came to the front after his marriage. 
For Nurjahin was skilful. She held him hard in leash ; her 
ascendency was absolute. It is usual, once more, to discount 
ter influence by asserting its root to have been ambition ; but 
there is absolutely nothing to warrant this assertion. It is true 
that she raised her own minions to office, that her father held 
the post of prime minister ; but he was wise and just. Nor can 
there be any doubt that the whole administration improved after 
Jahangir's marriage. As for his private character, he became, 
for a time, quite a decent and respectable monarch. If he drank, 
he drank at night in secret ; his day duties were done with 

Meanwhile, the report which a certain Mr Ralph Fitch had 
brought home to a certain "island set in steely seas" was be- 
ginning to bear fruit, and something more than hope of mere 
commerce filled the sails of the innumerable fleets which, not 
from England alone, but from Holland also, set forth to break 
through the monopoly of the shores of Ind which Portugal was 
endeavouring to maintain. The Dutch succeeded first, and their 
East India Company was formed in 1602. The first Royal Charter 
given to an English Trading Company was in 1601, but it was 
not until 16 13 that a fleet of four joint-stock vessels, with Sir 
Thomas Roe aboard, as accredited ambassador from James I 
to Jahangir's court at Ajmir, sailed for India. 

The journal of this voyage, written by Sir Thomas Roe himself, 


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Jahdngir and NurjahAn 195 

is excellent reading, and gives us a quaint picture of life at the 
court of the Great Moghul. Jahingir himself, dead-drunk as often 
as not, with the figures of Christ and the Virgin Mary hanging 
to his Mahomedan rosary. A spurious Christianity (deep-dyed 
by the monkish legends which the Jesuit translators had coolly 
interpolated into the version of the gospels which Akbar had 
ordered and paid for !), hustling Hinduism and Islamism com- 
bined. Nurjahan, with trembling lips, no doubt, at times, driving 
her despot gingerly what way he should go, proud of her power, 
but weary, a -weary of heart. A beautiful queen, beautifully 
dressed, clever beyond compare, contriving and scheming* plot- 
ting, planning, shielding, and saving, doing all things for the man 
hidden in the pampered, drink- sodden carcase of the king ; the 
man who, for her, at any rate, always had a heart. 

The inconceivable magnificence of it all, the courtesy, the 
hospitality, the devil-may-care indifference to such trivialities as 
English merchants or solid English presents ! As Sir Thomas 
Roe writes sadly to his Company : — 

" But raretyes please as well, and if you were furnished yearly 
from Francford, where are all knacks and new devices, £ioQ 
would go farther than £500 layd out in England, and here better 

Thus the rivalry of "made in Germany" is no new thing to 
India. Sir Thomas himself seems to have been a most excellent, 
God-fearing man, who was both perplexed and distressed at the 
attitude of the heathen towards his own faith. 

" I found" it impossible," he writes, " to convince them that the 
Christian faith was designed for the whole world, and that theirs 
was mere fable and gross superstition. There answer was amus- 
ing " (?) " enough. 'We pretend not,' they replied, 'that our law 
is of universal application. God intended it only for us. We do 
not even say that yours is a false religion ; it may be adapted 
to your wants and circumstances, God having, no doubt, appointed 
many different ways of going to Heaven.' " 

Whether amusing or not, the argument was singularly un- 
answerable V 

One of Sir Thomas Roe's most striking sketches is that of 
Prince Khurram, who moved through the court, a young man of 
five-and-twenty, cold, disdainful, showing no respect or distinc- 
tion of persons ; " flattered by some, envied by others, loved by 


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196 The Middle Age 

none." "I never saw," writes the ambassador, "so settled a 
countenance, or any man keep so constant a gravity.' 

Sir Thomas Roe was not by any means the only Englishman 
at court. Captain Hawkins had come thither nearly six years 
before, and had — Heaven knows why! — been beguiled by the 
capricious king into remaining, on the promise of a high salary. 
More than once he had attempted to escape in various ways ; 
but even his plea that he lived in fear of poison was met by 
Jahangir with almost ludicrous firmness, and the presentation of 
a " white mayden out of his palace, so that by these means my 
meats and drinks should be looked into." 

Poor Hawkins! His protest that he would take none but a 
Christian girl was of no avail. An orphan Armenian was 
promptly found, and the discomfited Captain could only write 
home : — 

" I little thought a Christian's daughter could be found ; but 
seeing she was of so honest a descent, and having passed my 
word to the king, could not withstand my fortunes. Wherefore 
I tooke her, and, for want of a minister, before Christian wit- 
nesses I marryed her ; the priest being my man Nicolas ; which 
I thought had been lawful, till I met with a preacher that came 
with Sir Harry Middleton, and he, showing mee the error, I 
was newly marryed againe." 

An honest soul, apparently, this Captain Hawkins. Sir Harry 
Middleton was hardly so virtuous, for, disappointed in his desire 
to establish a factory at Surat, he started with his little fleet 
for piracy on the High Seas, waylaying other people's golden 
galleons ! But all round the coast, nibbling, as it were, at India's 
coral strand, were strange ships out of strange nations, seeking 
for a foothold, seeking for merchandise, for money. 

But of this the emperor took no notice ; neither did his far 
more able son, Prince Shahjahan. Backed by all Nurjahan's 
influence, he was fast superseding his father in a dual administra- 
tion, leaving the latter free to amuse himself in Kashmir. But 
the death of Ghiass, Nurjahan's father, about the year 1620, 
brought about complications. His sound gocd sense, his justice, 
had so far kept the impulsive v»cmanbcod of the empress inline 
with policy. Now she suddenly betrothed her daughter by her 
first husband to Prince Shariyar, the youngest of Jahingir's sons, 
and naturally threw over the Knight-of-the-Rueful-Countenance, 


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Jah&ngir and Nurjah&n 19^ 

in whose inflexibility she saw danger to her own power. For 
Jahangir was ill of asthma, and like to die. 

Aided by her brother, she set to work instantly to sow dis- 
sension between father and son, to such purpose that Shah- 
jahan, till then the undoubted heir-apparent, his father's fighting 
right hand, was forced to take refuge in the Dekkan, which once 
more was in the act of throwing off allegiance to the Moghul. 

Having thus disposed, for the time being, of the inconvenient 
heir, Nurjahan took her emperor to Kashmir, where, no doubt, 
he enjoyed himself, for he returned thither the next year. He was, 
however, living in a fool's paradise, while Nurjahan, bereft of her 
father's shrewd eyes and Shahjahan's haughty insight, was but 
poor protection for a debauched and drunken monarch. 

So one dawning the crisis came. Mohabat Khan, whilom 
Governor of Bengal, a worthy and excellent man, fell into dis- 
grace with the empress. His son-in-law, sent to beg forgiveness, 
was bastinadoed and returned to him, face towards tail, on an ass. 

So it came to pass that while the imperial camp, conveying the 
emperor to a summer in Kabul, was marching northward, there 
followed behind it a half-defiant, half-repentant chieftain, com- 
manding some five thousand stalwart Rajputs. 

A word might have brought him to obedience once more ; but 
the imperial camp was large, and proud, and self-confident. So 
Mohabat bided his time. There was a bridge of boats over the 
Jhelum River, nigh where the bridge stands now, and after the 
usual custom, the imperial troops, marching at nightfall, spent 
the dark hours in crossing and preparing the new camp on the 
opposite bank. 

Thus by dawn little was left but the scarlet-and-gold imperial 
tents, wherein Majesty lay sleeping ; a drunken sleep, it is to be 

This was Mohabat's opportunity. He swooped down, over- 
powered the guards at the bridge, burnt some of the boats, cut 
others adrift, and then awoke the confused monarch. 

One can picture the scene. A protesting prince in pyjamas 
begging to be allowed to dress in the women's tents, and so gain 
a few words with his ever -ready counsellor. Mohabat wilily 
refusing ; and so out into the dawn, down by the river-bed, with 
the red flush paling to primrose in the sky, and the wild geese 
calling from every patch of green pulse, a disconsolate despot 
bereft of his guide. 


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198 The Middle Age 

The empress, however, discovering her loss, was nothing 
daunted. She put on disguise ; somehow — Heaven knows how ! — 
managed to cross the Jhelum, and finding her generals some- 
what doubtful, somewhat chill, upbraided them for allowing their 
rightful king to be stolen before their very eyes. That night an 
attempt was made to rescue him by a nobleman called Fedai- 
Khan, who swam the river at the head of a small body of horse ; 
but it failed, and half the party was drowned. 

Next morning, Nurjahan, having succeeded in rousing the army 
to a sense of its duty, herself headed a general attack. There 
was no bridge ; the only ford was a bad one, full of dangerous 
deep pools. But the rashness of impulse was leader, and the 
woman was amongst the first to land of a whole army, drenched, 
disordered, dispirited, with powder damp, weighed down with wet 
clothes and accoutrements. 

The result was a foregone conclusion. Nurjahan herself was as 
a fury. Her elephant circled in by enemies, her guards cut down, 
balls and arrows falling thick around her howdah, one of them, 
actually hitting her infant grand - daughter, Prince Shahriyar's 
child, who was seated in her lap. A strange place, in truth, for 
a baby, unless it were put there as a loyalist oriflamme. Then, 
her driver being killed, and leviathan cut across the proboscis, the 
beast dashed into the river, sank in deep water, plunged madly, 
sank again, and so, carried down-stream, finally found shore ; and 
the empress's women, looking to find her half-drowned, half-dead 
with fear, discovered her busy in binding up baby's wound. 

Bravo, Nurjahan ! One can forgive much for this one touch of 

Of course she was beaten ; whereupon she gave up force and 
instantly went to join her husband in the guise of a dutiful wife. 
It was her only chance of regaining him, and her empire over his 
enfeebled brain. 

Already she was almost too late. Mohabat had been before 
with her, had treated him with deference, with profound respect, 
had made him see that she was the cause of all his troubles — 
which was hardly the case. Anyhow, she was met point-blank 
with an order for her execution. 

Even this did not daunt her courage. She only asked for per- 
mission to kiss her lord's hand before death. 

Grudgingly assent was given ; it could not well be withheld. 
And one sight of her was enough. Jahangir's heart had really 


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Jah&ngir and Nurjah&n 199 

been hers ever since, as a boy, she had defied him in that matter 
of the doves. 

Perhaps — who knows ? — she may have stood before him — guile- 
fully — in the very attitude in which she had stood while Love 
flitted from the listless hand of Fate ; and all that Mohabat could 
do was to bow low and say : " It is not for the Emperor of the 
Moghuls to ask in vain." 

So Nurjahan was once more in her old place beside the drunkard, 
free to begin again with her fine, feminine wiles. It did not take 
her long to undermine Mohabat's influence. Within six months 
her intricate intrigues bore fruit. Jahingir, whose person was 
so watched and guarded that he was practically a prisoner, was 
spirited away by a muster of Nurjah&n's contingent in the middle 
of a reveiw, and Mohabat having thus lost his hostage was com- 
pelled to come to terms. 

One of these being an extremely guileful one, namely, that the 
ex-Governor of Bengal should turn his military capacity to the 
crushing of Shahjahin, who was beginning to give trouble in the 

This policy of the Kilkenny cats seemed to promise peace, and, 
relieved of all anxiety, the emperor and empress set off for their 
annual visit to Kashmir. But this time death lurked amid the 
purple iris fields which they loved so well. The asthma from 
which Jah&ngir had suffered for many years became alarming. 
What were the floating gardens of the Dhal Lake, the Grove of 
Sweet Breezes, or the Festival of Roses to a monarch who could 
not draw his breath ? They tried to get him back to the warmer 
climate of the plains, but he died almost ere he left the valley, 
being carried dead into the tent on one of the high uplands of the 

So ended the reign, and with it, Nurjahan's. She made no effort 
to enter public life again ; she put on the white robes of widowhood, 
and spent her days in prayer and charity, a sufficient answer to 
those who charge her with personal ambition. As far as India is 
concerned, Jahlngir's was a neutral influence, except for that one 
first act of his, that rehabilitation of the Mahomedan formula. 
Under this, the whole of Akbar's dream of unity was dissolving 
into thin air. Yet the danger which perhaps he had foreseen, 
against which he had, perhaps, attempted to guard India, was 
becoming every day more dangerous. 

The vultures — or, let us say, the eagles — were gathering over the 


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200 The Middle Age 

carcase. From Holland, from Portugal, from England, even from 
France, came galleons, like birds of prey eager to carry off the 
riches of the East. 

So for picturesque purposes we can think of this reign as of the 
picture of a man, pampered, bloated, half-drunken, looking in the 
lazy sunlight at the figure of a woman round whose head doves 
flutter amongst the hawks. 

Jah&ngir's famous drinking-cup, cut from a single ruby about 
3 inches long, after passing from hand to hand for many years 
down to the last century, has finally and mysteriously disappeared. 

In some ways it would be worth while once to drain the good 
wine of Shiraz from the glowing red heart of that fatal cup which 
bears on it, in fine gold characters, a single name. 

They say it is u Jahangir "— Or is it " Nurjahan " ? 


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A.D. 1627 TO A.D. 1657 

The Knight-of-the-Rueful- Countenance in his youth, remarkable 
for his lack of amiability, Shahjahan's character appears to have 
changed to cheerfulness from the moment when, at the age of thirty- 
seven, he ascended the throne. 

It was immediately evident also that not without purpose had he 
sate at the feet of that Gamaliel of administrative ability, Akbar. 
Without his grandfather's genius, a man, in brief, of infinitely lower 
calibre all round, he is yet palpably a lineal descendant of the 
Great Moghul. In reading of him we are continually reminded 
of that grandfather to whom he was so much attached, that when 
in the hour of Akbar*s death he was urged by his Yather to follow 
his example and flee the court for fear of assassination by those 
who were pushing Prince Khushru's claim, he replied proudly 
" that his father might do as he chose, but that he would watch 
by Akbar till the last." 

It may be that this devotion had not been disinterested, and 
that disappointment at not being chosen to succeed may have had 
something to do with the moroseness of the young prince ; but, on 
the other hand, it may have been the hidden impatience of 
knowing that filial affection, honour, everything his grandfather 
(who had been his boyhood's hero) held most dear compelled 
him to bide Nature's time for kingship, that made the long 
years seem wasted. For Jahangir's government was not good ; 
after a very few years the whole administration of the country 
had visibly declined. It rose again under Shahjahan, and some 
historians go as far as to say that, although "Akbar excelled 
all as a law-maker, yet for order and arrangement, good finance 
and government in every department of State, no prince ever 
reijjned in India that could be compared to Shahjahan," One 



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202 The Middle Age 

thing is certain. India during his time was peaceful, easeful, 
and prosperous. 

One reason for this is not hard to trace. Europe for the first 
time had really entered the Indian markets, and the superfluities 
it found there were being paid for in gold. There had been a 
time of truce, as it were, between the Dutch and the English 
after the massacre at Amboyna — a needless and brutal massacre 
which still stands to the discredit of the Dutch. England had 
threatened war, Holland had promised redress, and so the long 
years passed by, giving opportunities of commerce to both sides. 
But it was not until the seventh year of Shahjahan's reign that 
the firmdn granted by Jahangir to Thomas Roe, authorising the 
English to trade in Bengal, was acted upon, and a factory (as 
such trading centres were called) opened at Pepli, close to the 
estuary of the river Hugli. 

That the commerce was growing by leaps and bounds may 
be judged from the fact that the original East India Company 
had to petition Parliament first ; to restrain their own servants 
from taking undue advantage of a regulation which permitted a 
certain fixed limit of private trade ; and secondly, against the 
formation of another trading company to the East India's. The 
chief cause of complaint made about the original one being its 
failure to fortify its factories, and so " provide safety or settledness 
for the establishment of traffic in the said Indies, for the good 
of posterity." Whence it may be observed that the policy of " pte 
and carronade" was beginning to find favour. For Charles I. 
granted a charter to this new company; whereupon time was 
lost, as well as tempers, in the consequent conflict of interests. 
The record written by the French physician, Francois Bernier, 
of his "Travels and Sojourn in the Moghul Empire," gives us 
clear insight as to what was happening in this first organised 
attempt of the West on the East. Scarcely a page passes without 
reference to new efforts of the Portuguese to outwit England, 
England to outwit Portugal, and of both to double-dam the 
Dutch. And behind all were the refuse leavings of all three 
nations, mixed up with Malays, Jews, Turks, Infidels, and 
Hereticks, in the redoubtable persons of the Pirates of Arracan ; 
those foremost of buccaneers, who swept the Indian seas and 
harried its coral strands. Bernier's description of them is worth 
recording, as it shows graphically how the cancer of commerce 


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Shdhjah&n 203 

and so-called civilisation was eating into the dreamful, slothful, 
ease-loving body-politic of the whole peninsula. 

"The Kingdom of Arracan has contained during many years 
several Portuguese settlers, a great number of Christian slaves, 
or half- cast Portuguese and other Europeans collected from 
various parts of the world. That kingdom was a place of refuge 
for fugitives from Goa, Ceylon, Cochin, Malacca, and other settle- 
ments . . . and no persons were better received than those who 
had deserted their monasteries, married two or three wives, or 
committed other great crimes. ... As they were unawed and 
unrestrained by the Government, it was not surprising that these 
renegades pursued no other trade than that of rapine and piracy. 
They scoured the neighbouring: seas in light galleys, entered the 
numerous arms of the Ganges, ravished the islands of Lower 
Bengal ; and, often penetrating forty or fifty leagues up the 
country, surprised and carried away the entire population of 
villages on market days, and at times when the inhabitants were 
assembled for the celebration of a marriage, or some other 
festival. . . . The treatment of the slaves thus made was most 
cruel. ... By a mutual understanding, the pirates would await 
the arrival of the Portuguese ships, who bought whole cargoes at 
a cheap rate ; and it is lamentable to reflect that other Europeans 
have pursued the same flagitious commerce with the Pirates of 
Arracan, who boast that they convert more Hindus to Christianity 
in a twelve-month than all the missionaries in India do in twelve 

Not a pleasing picture, though it whets the curiosity to know 
more, for instance, of the career of Fra Joan, the Augustine 
monk who, having by means unknown possessed himself of the 
island of Sundiva, reigned there King-of- the- Pirates for many 

It was the encouragement given to these scourges of the seas 
which brought down on the Portuguese the vengeance of Shah- 
janan, whose laconic reply to the complaint of his governor in 
Bengal against their new factory at Hugli is delightful in its 
peremptoriness, pathetic in its pride : " Expel those idolaters 
from my dominions ! " 

Easier said than done, even though the image-decorated church 
at Agra, which had been built in the reign of Akbar, and the 
newer one with chimes in its steeple, which had been erected 
at Lahdre in Jah&ngir's time, could easily be demolished. Still 
Hugli could be besieged and captured, and no doubt the success 
made a subject for general rejoicing. For above all things 


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204 The Middle Age 

Sh&hjah&n delighted in fireworks ; that is to say, he had a 
perfect passion for expensive entertainments, for gorgeous pro- 
cessions, for magnificent buildings. Half the architectural sights 
of to-day in Northern India are due to Sh&hjah&n's lavish love 
of beauty. Some of his fties^ again, are estimated to have cost 
over a million and a half sterling. The famous peacock throne, 
of which Tavernier, a French jeweller by profession, asserts — 
with apparent credence — that it was commonly supposed to have 
been worth nearly six and a half millions, was constructed by 
this king's orders. 

The question rises insistently : " How came the Emperor of 
India by such enormous wealth?" The answer is curiously 
simple : " L'etat c'est moi." 

The State was the Emperor, or rather the Emperor was the 
visible State. Every atom of imperial revenue passed through 
his hands for distribution. Not in precise pay to clerks and 
collectors, to magistrates and ministers, departments and divisions, 
but in lavish gifts and prodigal scatterings abroad over the land. 
Whence the gold, gaining circulation, filtered down in smaller 
payments, smaller giftings. It was a quaint, but not a bad 
method of making the king the Fount-of-all-Goodness, the verit- 
able Father -of- his -people. Indeed, Sh&hjah&n was counted, 
despite the fact that he spent the three-and-twenty millions sterling 
of revenue in right imperial fashion, to have been an economical 
king, getting his full money's worth in all ways. Nor was he 
privately an inordinately rich man, for Bernier states that when 
he died his whole personal estate was worth about six millions. 
Thus, while we read of peacock thrones, of marvellous mosques, 
of three millions spent without regret on a mausoleum, of half 
that sum squandered in what we have called fireworks, it is 
necessary to readjust our Western vision, and see public utility 
behind the personal extravagance. In fact the spectacle of 
Sh&hjah&n, the most magnificent of monarchs, raises the problem 
as to how far a millionaire's reckless squandering of a sovereign 
injures that coin of the realm for its final purpose of bringing 
bread to a hungry mouth. 

Regarding the actual events of Sh&hjah&n's reign, there is 
very little to say. The Dekkan — in which we can now include 
the whole southward country down to Cape Cormorin, the hitherto 
unsurveyed, unrecorded triangle forming the apex of India having, 
chiefly by the nibbling of foreigners along the entire seaboard, 


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ShUijahAn 205 

by this time come into the equation — was as ever unsettled. It 
had, even in Akbar's time, been nothing more than a fief of the 
Crown, and though under his system it would doubtless have 
become in time an integral part of the empire, it was gradually 
making once more for independence. So, naturally, there was 
trouble in the Dekkan. The Rajputs, however, seem to have 
been fairly quiescent, and the chief disturbances of Shihjahin's 
time were the constant quarrels of his four sons, D&ra, Shujah, 
Aurungzebe, and Mor&d. These, with four daughters, Padshah or 
Jahan&ra, Begum Roshanrai Begum, and two others, were un- 
doubtedly the children of one wife ; nor is there mention of 
others, so if it be true that Mumt&z Mahal, to whose memory 
the Taj was built, died in giving birth to a thirteenth child, many 
of her family must have died, or been done away with in 
infancy; legend says the latter, Shahjahan being three parts 
Rajput. It was, curiously enough, Shahjah&n's absolute adora- 
tion for his eldest daughter, P&dshah or Jahanara Begum, which 
was the cause of England's first hold on Bengal. She was badly 
burnt in attempting to save a favourite companion, and an 
English doctor, Gabriel Boughton, hastily summoned from Surat, 
asked and received as his fee, the right for Preat Britain to trade 
in Bengal. 

To return to the sons. Dara, the eldest, is drawn by Bernier 
in fairly pleasing colours. Frank and impetuous, liberal in his 
opinions, he made enemies with one hand while he made friends 
with the other, while his open profession of the tenets held by 
his grandfather Akbar, and the writing of a book to reconcile 
Hindu and Mahomedan doctrines, alienated the orthodox from his 
cause. Shujah, by his father's estimate, was a mere drunkard ; 
Mor&d, the youngest, a sensualist. There remains Aurungzebe. 
He was an absolute contrast to D&ra. A small man, with a 
big brain and absolutely no heart. A man of creeds and caution, 
of faith and faithlessness. He had what historians call an 
"early turn for devotion." In a thousand ways — and those the 
least estimable — he reminds one of Cromwell ; Cromwell without 
his magnificent sincerity of purpose. 

The history of the mutual misunderstandings and divisions 
and coalitions of these princes is indeed a weary one. Only 
Dara comes out of it with comparatively clean hands. Indeed, 
in the last act of the drama of Shahjahan's actual reign of thirty 
years our sympathies go entirely with Dara, as he struggles to 


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206 The Middle Age 

maintain his own future position, and still uphold that of the 
sick king. 

As this final incident is an excellent example of what in lesser 
degree had been going on for years, it may be given with 
advantage. Shahjahan was in his sixty-seventh year. His sons, 
therefore, all but the youngest, Morad, touched and overpassed 
forty. His eldest, Dara, had for some time had a large share in 
the Government, both as heir-apparent, and also because his 
father in his old age had turned to wine and women. Padshah 
Begum, the elder daughter, to whom the aged emperor had 
devoted attachment, unbounded affection, was ever on her brother's 
side. Shujah, the second son, was Viceroy in Bengal ; Prince 
Morad, the youngest, Viceroy in Guzerat. Aurungzebe was occu- 
pied in Golconda carrying the Moghul arms into the diamond 

Thus Dara, on his father's sudden and dangerous sickness — of 
the cause of it the less said the better — found himself able for a 
time, with his sister's help, to keep all knowledge of the king's 
danger from spreading throughout the country. But as Padshah 
Begum was Dara's ally, so Roshanrai, the younger sister, was 
fast friend to Aurungzebe. Through her he learnt the truth, and 
instantly took his part cautiously, diplomatically. He did not 
instantly proclaim himself king, as Shujah and Morad did in their 
several viceroyalties when the news also reached their ears. He 
stood aside and waited, while Sfcjih* marched with his army to 
engage Dara, and then wrote to his younger brother Morad one 
of the most fulsome letters of flattery ever penned, declaring that 
he, and he alone, was fit for the crown, and offering him the service 
of one who, weary of the world, was on the eve of renouncing it, 
and indulging the devotion of his nature by retirement to Mekka ! 
Morad must have been a fool to have swallowed the bait, but 
swallow it he did ; and with this cat's-paw puppet in front of him, 
Aurungzebe, with their conjoined armies, moved to Agra, whence 
Shujah had been driven back by Dara into Bengal. The old king 
was by this time convalescent, and, finding Dara, instead of taking 
advantage of his illness, was, on the contrary, ready to yield up his 
brief regency with cheerfulness, was inclined to trust his eldest son 
more than ever. He therefore consented, somewhat against his 
own will, to the latter trying conclusions at once with the Morad- 
Aurungzebe confederacy. Fortune went against him. During 
the battle Aurungzebe, who asserted that he warred alone against 


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ShAhjahAn 207 

the irreligious, the heretical, the scandalous Dara, was loud in 
prayerful protestations that God was on their side ; after it he 
fell on his knees and thanked Divine Providence for the victory 
and the round thousand or so of souls sent below. Dara fled, 
and three days afterwards Aurungzebe marched into Agra, coolly 
imprisoned the aged king in the fort, and having now no further 
use for Morad, invited him to supper, plied him with drink 
(waiving his own pious scruples for the time), so, when hopelessly 
intoxicated, disarmed him in favour of chains, and packing him on 
an elephant, despatched him as a State prisoner to Selimgarh, the 
mid-river fort at Delhi ! So ended poor, foolish Morad's dream of 
kingship ; nor was his life much more prolonged, for shortly after- 
wards he was executed in prison on a trumped-up charge. Shujah 
escaped a like fate by disappearance, and poor Dara, after unheard- 
of dangers, difficulties, trials and terrors, met with a worse one. 

But this record belongs to the reign of Aurungzebe, the man 
without a heart. 

Shahjahan, meanwhile, remained for seven years a captive in the 
fort, old, decrepid, tearful, counting his jewels, and comforted by 
his daughter, Padshah Begum. 

A sad ending this, for a man who had been the most magnificent 
monarch who ever sate upon the throne of India. But all his 
energies, all his capabilities seem to have deserted him. He made 
no effort to reassert his kingship, and what is still more strange, 
no friend or companion, no mi* '^er, no adherent, attempted it 
for him. Utterly deserted by all save his daughter, he died seven 
years afterwards, in 1665, and was buried at his own request beside 
his wife in the Taj Mahal, that most marvellous monument of 
marriage which the world has ever seen. 

And out of this there springs to light for the seeing eye a 
pitiful story which brings back a pulse of human sympathy for the 
man whose old age was so sordid, so degenerate. 

How many years was it since with bitter grief he had buried 
the wife to whom he was so devotedly attached that history 
declares he kept faithfully to her, and to her only, till death did 
them part? 

It was four-and-thirty years since the daughter she was bearing 
to him cried — so the story runs — ere it was born, and within a few 
hours, Arjamund the Beloved lay dead with her still-born babe. 

A tragedy indeed ! Think what it means ! Long years of hard- 
ship, exile, wandering, and then four only — four short years of 


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2o8 The Middle Age 

content, of kingship, in which to heap comforts, luxuries, on the 
woman whom you love — who has borne with you the heat and 
burden of the day. 

That was Shahjahan's fate. But the history of these Moghul 
kings, these Great Moghul s whose name still lingers in conjunction 
with that of the Grand Turk and Bluebeard as something slightly 
shocking and decidedly despotic so far as women are concerned, 
is curiously disconcerting to one's preconceived ideas on this 

Babar, whose Mahum met him after long years " at midnight,'* 
as with bare head and slipper-shoon he ran to catch the earliest 
glimpse of her along the dusty road. Hum&yon, whose sixteen- 
year-old bride, Hamida, wedded in hot love-haste, brought him his 
first son at the age of thirty-eight. Akbar, who, after a brief youth 
of normal passion, settled down into the life of an anchorite. 
Shahjahan, who built the Taj, who spent twenty-two years of his 
life in gathering together every conceivable beauty to lay at the 
dead feet of a woman who bore him thirteen children. 

These are not the records which we should have expected from 
a line of Eastern kings. 

Regarding this same monument of marriage, the Taj. So much 
has been said about it, that little remains to say. Perhaps the 
most bewildering thing about its beauty is the impossibility of 
saying wherein that beauty lies. Colour of stone, purity of outline, 
faultlessness of form, delicacy of decoration — all these are here ; 
but they are also in many a building from which the eye turns — 
and turns to forget. 

But once seen, the Taj— whether seen with approval or dis- 
approval — is never forgotten. It remains ever a thing apart. 
Something which the world cannot touch with either praise or 
blame— something elusive, beyond criticism in three dimensional 

It was Shahjahan who first thought of it ; but who designed* 
who built it ? 

The very question brings a certain revulsion. It is impossible 
to dislocate one stone of the Taj from another, to think of it in 
fragments as anything than as a perfect whole. 

No ! it was never built. It is a bit of the New Jerusalem which 
some yellow Eastern dawn coming after a velvet-dark Eastern 
night, found standing, as it stands now, amid the cypresses of the 


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A.D. 1657 TO A.D. 1707 

With Aurungzebe, the Middle Age of Indian History ends. 
From the date of his death, interest finally ceases to centre round 
the dying dynasties of India, and, changing sides, concerns itself 
absolutely with the coming sovereignty of the West. 

Even during his long reign of fifty years, the attention is often 
distracted by the welter of conflicting commerces which, leaving 
the sea-boards, spread further and further up-country. It requires, 
therefore, some concentration to deal with Aurungzebe, the last 
of the Great Moghuls ; the last, and, without doubt, the least estim- 
able of them all. 

In truth, the steps to his throne were littered with black crime. 
Shahjah&n, his father, had, it is true, made his seat more secure 
by the deaths by poison, bow-string, or sword, of the three next 
heirs to the throne — one of them his half-uncle ; but Aurungzebe 
trod on the bodies of three brothers in reaching kingship, and 
for seven years of that kingship carried about with him the prison 
key of a deposed and dishonoured father. Of minor sins, such 
as the poisonings of nephews, cousins, even aunts, there were 
scores. Well might he exclaim upon his death-bed : " I have 
committed numerous crimes — I know not with what punishment 
I may be seized." 

And yet he was, in his way, a good king. Had he been less 
of a bigot, he would have been a better one ; but this bigotry 
was necessary to his peace of mind. He could not have borne 
the sting of conscience without some anodyne of hard-and-fast 
religious rectitude. It was after the murder of his brother Dara, 
who, caught on the confines of Sinde, almost unattended (for he 
had sent his most trusted adherents back to Lahdre with the 
dead body of his wife, who had died of fatigue), was given a 

309 O 


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210 The Middle Age 

mock trial for heresy and done to death, that Aurungzebe built 
the celebrated Blood-money Mosque at Lah6re, in which no 
Mahomedan prayed for long years, feeling it to be defiled 

But Aurungzebe was for ever hedging between this world and 
the next, so we must take him as we find him — an absolutely 
contemptible creature, who yet did good work. Needless to 
say, however, " Akbar's Dream " vanished into thin air from the 
moment he set his foot upon the throne. 

The first five years of his reign were practically spent in 
ridding himself of relations. The whole family of Shujah suffered 
death, and even his own son was immured as a state prisoner in 
consequence of a trivial act of independence. 

Then— and small wonder! — he was seized with a mysterious 
illness, which left him speechless. Nothing but his marvellous 
determination could have averted the chaos which must have 
followed in a state but half broken in to his murderous methods. 
But he sent for his great seal and his sister Roshanara, and 
keeping them both by his sick-bed, held order by sheer insistency 
until he recovered. 

So, after a brief holiday in Kashmir — that happy hunting-ground 
of all the Moghul kings, who seem to have inherited the love of 
beautiful scenery from their great ancestor, Babar — he came back 
to face the greatest foe to the Moghul power which had arisen 
since the combined Rajput resistance was finally broken by 

This foe was the Mahratta race, which had been gradually 
growing to power in the Western Ghats, that natural stronghold 
of mountains which rises in many places like a wall, between 
the Western Sea and the high table-land of Central India. No 
more fitting birthplace for warlike tribes could be imagined. 
Towards the sea, breaks of rich rice-fields, tongued by spurred 
rocks and outlying strips of almost impenetrable forest. Then 
the bare, broken ridges, 3,000 or 4,000 feet high, ending often 
in a scarp of sheer precipice, and giving on wide, thicket-set 
woods, through which, after a while, ravines break into valleys 
to the eastward. A land of rain -clouds from the south-west 
monsoon, of roaring torrents and drifting mists ; full of wild 
beasts fleeing fearfully from the small, sturdy huntsmen of the 
hills. These were the Mahrattas. Not a very interesting race 
when all was said and done. Brave, dogged, determined, but, 


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Aurungzebe 211 

by reason, doubtless, of their Sudra extraction, lacking the 
nobility of the Rajput and the Rajput nicety in honour. 

It was in the time of Malik- Amb^r, the Abyssinian slave who 
in the reign of Jahangir gave new life to the dying dynasty in 
the Dekkan, that the Mahrattas first made their mark. Before 
this, history does not even recognise them. 

Amongst the Mahratta officers of Malik-Amb6r was one M&lo-ji, 
who had a five-year-old son called Shah-ji. To a Hindu festival 
at the house of a Rajput this boy was taken, and by chance 
was lifted to one knee of the host, whose little daughter of three 
occupied the other. 

"They are a fine couple," laughed the host and father. 
"They should be man and wife!" 

This was enough for Malo-ji's ambition. He started up, and called 
the company to witness that the girl was affianced to his son. 

Naturally enough, the claim roused indignation ; but in the 
end, Malo-ji's fortunes improving, Sh&h-ji gained his high-caste 
bride, and from the marriage sprang Siva-ji, the national hero 
of the Mahrattas, who was destined to wreck the power of the 
Moghuls in the south. 

Siva-ji, by the time he was sixteen, was already notorious. 
His love of adventure, his knowledge of the popular ballads 
of the people, his complicity in the great gang-robberies which 
formed an ever-recurring excitement to life in the Gh&ts, his 
intimate acquaintance with every footpath and defile in that 
wild country, his horsemanship, his sportsmanship, were on the 
tongues of all; and when, still in his teens, he fortified one 
of the neglected hill-citadels and set up a chieftainship of his 
own, there were not wanting those who laughed at the impertinence 
as a high-spirited, boyish freak. 

But within a few years the boyish freak was found to be 
open rebellion, and Siva-ji was practically king of the wild 
western country. What is more, he had become an ardent 
Hindu, and laid claims to Divine dreams. 

The court at Bijapur attempted remonstrance, imprisoned 
poor Shah-ji, his father, and threatened to wall him up unless 
Siva-ji repented of his errors : whereupon, with the cunning 
which distinguished him in all things, the latter made overtures 
to, and was taken into the service of, Shahjahan, then engaged 
in the Dekkan. So for a few years affairs remained at a dead- 
lock ; Siva-ji, apprehensive for his father, Bijapur of the Moghuls. 


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212 The Middle Age 

Then Shah-ji being released, his son began his career of 
annexation afresh, being checked, however, in his depredations 
by fear of Prince Aurungzebe, who was then fighting the King 
of Golconda. 

Both of the same kidney, artful, designing, specious, the 
diplomacies which passed between the Mahratta robber-chieftain 
and Aurungzebe, intent on stealing the throne of India, cannot 
have been edifying. The former took the opportunity of the 
tetter's hasty retreat on the news of his father's illness, to 
increase his power by an act of double-dyed treachery. He 
induced the commander of the King of Bijapur's forces to come 
unattended to the hill fort of Partabghar in order to receive 
his submission. 

The scene is dramatic. 

The generalissimo, in white muslin, carrying for ornament 
only a stiff, straight sword of state, awaiting on a rocky plateau 
with one single attendant the advance of Siva-ji, who, also in 
white muslin, was seen slowly descending the steps of his 
eyrie, apparently unarmed, and also with but one attendant. 
A slim little bit of a fellow this Siva-ji, timid, hesitating. But 
appearances are deceitful : underneath his muslin robing was 
chain armour, within his closed left hand were the " tiger's claws " 
(sharp hooks of steel fastened on to the fingers with which to 
grapple with the foe), and close to his outstretched, salaaming 
right hand was a poniard. It was all over in a second. The 
tiger's claws gripped and held, the dagger did its work. And 
then Siva-ji's wild robber hordes, conveniently disposed before- 
hand by secret paths round the royal troops, fell upon them and 
spared not until victory was secure. For in truth Siva-ji appears 
to have been of the noble highwayman type — that is to say, 
not set on murder if he can gain gold without it. 

Siva-ji's next exploit was less blameworthy. Shayista-Khan, 
who commanded Aurungzebe's forces in the Dekkan, marched to 
annihilate the little robber, and, succeeding in worsting him in 
the open, took up quarters at Poona ; curiously enough, occupy- 
ing the very house in which Siva-ji had spent his youth. 

Possibly the intimate knowledge of back-door passages, which 
he must thus have possessed, suggested what was more a boyish 
escapade than a serious attack. Siva - ji, with some twenty 
followers, entered Poona at night by joining a marriage pro- 
cession, made his way straight to the house, entered by a side 


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Aurungzebe 213 

door, and was in Shayista-KMn's bedroom but half a minute too 
late, yet just in time to cut off with his sword the two fingers that 
clung to the window-sill as the Mahomedan general let himself 
down into the courtyard below. Whereupon, seeing that same 
courtyard full of ramping soldiery, Siva-ji retired as he came, 
until, once outside the city gates, he lit up torches and flambeaux ; 
so making his way back to his hill eyrie, some 12 miles off, in a 
blaze of triumph that was visible to every Moghul in the place. 
This tale is still told by the Mahratta bards with immense 
enthusiasm, though the story of his march against Aurungzebe at 
Delhi is really more exciting. 

They were birds of a feather these two : both small, slippery, 
absolutely untrustworthy ; both playing consistently for their own 
hands. At one time, however, Siva-ji seems to have been inclined 
to yield to Aurungzebe, and honest, liberal treatment might have 
turned the rebel freebooter into a staunch adherent ; but it was 
not in Aurungzebe to trust any one. So, mistaking his man 
utterly, he received the little Mahratta cavalierly, and when he 
stormed and raged and positively swooned with vexation, made 
him virtually a prisoner. 

Almost alone in Delhi with his five - year - old son Samba-ji, 
Siva-ji was too wily to precipitate matters by any display of 
annoyance ; but he laid his plans. His first move was to beg leave 
for his small escort to leave Delhi, the climate of which he said 
was insalubrious. To this Aurungzebe gave glad consent ; it 
seemed to leave Siva-ji still more at his mercy. The latter next 
took to his bed on plea of sickness. This afforded him an oppor- 
tunity of, first, being able to use the Hindu physicians, who were 
allowed to attend him, as spies and go-betweens ; second, of send- 
ing sweetmeats and other offerings to various fakirs ', Hindu and 
Mahomedan, with a request for their prayers. And as he grew 
more and more sick, the hampers and baskets containing the 
offerings grew larger and larger, until one day — hey presto ! — little 
Siva-ji and his little son occupied the place of the sweetmeats. 
It was hours before the guards discovered that the sick-bed was 
occupied by a dummy, and by that time Siva-ji was in Muttra 
amongst his disguised followers. He himself adopted that of a 
wandering jogi, and, smeared all over with ashes, arrived in due 
time quite jauntily in his old haunts. 

Aurungzebe took his defeat in good part. For the time he 
was occupied with Shahjahan's death, and with embassies from 


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4t4 The T Middle Age 

Arabia and Abyssinia. Then Little Tibet had just been brought 
under his sway, and in Bengal the kingdom of Arrakan, which 
held the rich rice-fields of Chittagong, had been added to the 

It was some years, therefore, before Aurungzebe pitted himself 
once more against the Mahratta. 

Then once again he found the impracticability of subduing an 
enemy which, at the first attack, reduced itself to a horde of units, 
each one animated by individual love of fight, love of plunder. It 
was guerilla war with a vengeance, so after a time the emperor 
was not sorry to have his attention drawn from it to the north- 
west frontier. On his return from this unsuccessful expedition, 
he settled down for a time to govern his kingdom, which he 
did in a way that irritated and exasperated both Hindus and 
Mahomedans. The former almost rose in revolt at the reimposi- 
tion of the poll tax on infidels ; the latter, especially in the court, 
objected to the prohibition of all amusements. Amongst other 
prohibitions was the curious one of forbidding history to be 
written, or court annals to be kept ; the result being that no real 
record of the last forty years of this reign is extant. 

As time went on, he bore more and more hardly on the Hindus, 
until discontent spread on all sides, and in the Dekkan every one 
was at heart a partisan of Siva-ji. 

Finally, an attempt on Aurungzebe's part to get into his power 
the infant children of Rajah J&i-Singh of Amber, whom he had 
caused to be poisoned in his distant viceroyalty of Kabul, joined 
to the iniquity of the jizya^ or infidel tax, set the whole of 
Raj pu tan a in a flame. In this connection the letter sent to the 
Emperor by Rana Raj-Singh of Chittore may be quoted in part, 
as an example of the dignified remonstrances which preceded the 
appeal to the sword. 

"How can the dignity of the sovereign be preserved who 
employs his power in exacting heavy tribute from a people thus 
miserably reduced ? . . . If your Majesty places any faith in 
those books, by distinction called divine, you will there be 
instructed that God is the god of all mankind, not the god of 
Mahomedans alone. The pagan and the Mussulman are equally 
in His presence ... to vilify the religion or customs of other 
men is to set at naught the pleasure of the Almighty. . . In 
fine, the tribute you demand from Hindus is repugnant to justice ; 
it is equally foreign to good policy, as it must impoverish the 


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Aurungzebe 215 

The appeal, needless to say, was fruitless ; but after a long and 
mutually disastrous war a sort of peace was patched up between 
the Rajputs and the Moghuls, leaving Aurungzebe free to attempt 
yet once again to repress the irrepressible Siva-ji, who by this 
time had been crowned King of the Mahrattas, and had become 
a still more ardent Hindu, minutely scrupulous to ceremonial and 

Thus the two great rival powers in India were bigoted 
Hinduism, bigoted Islamism. A far cry, indeed, from dead 
Akbar's Dream of tolerant Unity. 

So the struggle recommenced. But Siva-ji was more elusive 
than ever. He fought by sea as well as by land, and the first 
record of a naval war in India is that which he waged along the 
shores of Western India. Only the English settlement at Surat 
defied him. They put their factory into what state of defence 
was possible, garrisoned it with their crews, and met the marauding 
Mahrattas with a sally which effectually drove them off. For 
which valiant defence of their own, Aurungzebe exempted the 
English for ever from a portion of the customs duty paid by 
other nations, and remitted the transit charges. 

Siva-ji thus indirectly did a good turn to English commerce. 

Years passed, bringing advantage to the Mahratta side, when, 
in 1680, death suddenly intervened and carried the clever, astute 
little Siva-ji off in the fifty-third year of his age. 

A bit of a genius was Siva-ji, quick to seize on the mistakes 
of his adversary, and far-seeing enough to appeal to natural spirit 
and religious enthusiasm in his adherents. Thus, though his 
death was a great blow, it did not crush the rising fortunes of 
the Mahrattas, despite the fact that Samba-ji, his heir, had shown 
no capability for kingship during his youth, and on his accession 
gave himself up to cruelty and passion. Still the war dragged 
on ; defeat was indeed impossible to an army which had no 
cohesion, and which now, in consequence of the failure of 
regular pay under Samba-ji's career of idle luxury, degenerated 
into plundering hordes of mere freebooters. 

It was at this juncture that Aurungzebe himself, possibly sus- 
picious of his. generals, always distrustful of everything that did 
not actually come under his eyes, and pass through his hands, 
marched southwards. In a way, it was a fatal mistake ; for he 
brought with him all his intolerant authority, his infatuation for 
his faith. Hitherto his officers, seeing the evil effects of levying 


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216 The Middle Age 

the infidel tax strictly in this land of infidels, had let it slide ; 
now affairs took a very different turn. But at first the imperial 
troops were fairly successful, though by the time they had marched 
through the Gh&t country they were crippled by sickness, out- 
wearied by the difficulty of the roads, harassed by the continual 
depredations of Samba-ji's guerillas both by sea and land. To 
add to difficulty, the latter concluded a sort of a defensive 
alliance with the King of Golconda; whereupon the emperor* 
tired of hunting a Will-o'-the-Wisp through mists and swamps, 
seized on a stationary enemy. Golconda reduced to terms, 
Bijapur next came under displeasure. A very small state, its 
capital was an extremely large town, the circumference of the 
walls being more than 6 miles. Garrisoned by a very small 
force it soon fell, and Aurungzebe was carried in a portable throne 
through the breach into the deserted city. It remains now much 
as it was then — a city, not of ruins, but of desertion. The walls, 
still entire, are surmounted by the cupolas and minarets of the 
public buildings within, so that from outside Bijapur shows 
bravely ; but within all is desolation. The wide Mosque, the 
splendid palace, the great domed tomb of the kings, are alike 
deserted, the home only of bats and hyenas. Yet still, centering 
the desertion, stands the old brass cannon, weighing 41 tons, 
which "Rume* the European " cast in 1585. 

While this was going on, be-drugged, dissolute Samba-ji watched 
the proceedings inertly, ineptly. The Mahratta historians accuse 
Kalusha the Brahman, his favourite, the pandar to all his vices, 
of having enchanted the young man ; but the enchantment was 
mere sensuality, self-indulgence. 

His time for enjoyment, nevertheless, ran short. Golconda and 
Bijapur taken, Aurungzebe, triumphant — after, as usual, alienating 
the people by his religious intolerance — added to religious hatred 
by capturing the person of Samba-ji while drunk and incapable 
in his favourite palace of pleasure, and thereinafter, having 
paraded him through the camp in disgrace, ordering him to 
prison. Whereupon Samba-ji, roused at last to sense, openly 
reviled the emperor, his prophet, his faith, in language so 
strong that it was considered necessary to cut his tongue out 
as a punishment for blasphemy, before beheading him and his 
favourite, the vile Kalusha. 

Anything more injudicious could not well be conceived. 
Despised as Samba-ji had been whilst alive by the better class 


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Aurungzebe 217 

of Mahrattas, he was now a martyr. From this time, the fortunes 
of Aurungzebe, and with them the Empire of the Moghuls, began 
to fall ; and for the few remaining years of his life, the emperor, 
now growing old, must have felt himself and his power on the 
downward grade. His indefatigable perseverance, his laborious 
energy, are almost pitiful. Over eighty years of age, he rested 
not at all, and despite our reprobation, the heart softens towards 
the tired old man as we see him, seemingly careless of the greater 
enemy along his sea-board, leading his armies through trackless 
forests and flooded valleys, enduring hardships that would have 
tried youth, in pursuit of the irrepressible, irresponsible Mahrattas. 
An old man, small, slender, stooping, with a long nose, a frosted 
beard, and a perpetual smile. 

That smile was worn outside ; but within ? Within was weari- 
ness and fear even for this life. The remembrance of his 
father's fate at his hands seems never to have left him ; every 
action of his during the later years of his reign showing his 
fear lest a like fate should be his. So he held every tiny thread 
of the great warp and woof of Government in his own hands. 
Only thus could he feel secure. 

In such a system abuse is inevitable. No single eye can 
supervise a wide empire, and so corruption grew apace, and 
with corruption, inefficiency. The noblemen, waxing effeminate, 
wore wadded coats under their chain armour ; their horses, 
laden with ornamentations, housed with velvet, were purely pro- 
cessional, and utterly unfit for war. The common soldiers, 
aping their superiors, followed suit, and became so slothful that 
they could neither keep watch nor picket, and discipline dis- 
appeared utterly. 

Yet all the time, while Aurungzebe, old, enfeebled in health, out- 
wearied himself in precautions, in providence, the greatest enemy 
to the Moghul dynasty was advancing, apparently unnoticed, in 
rapid strides. For the West had finally set its face towards the 
East. Commerce had already joined hands over the empire. In 
1667 Britain, France, Holland, and Denmark, signed a treaty of 
common cause at Breda that was practically a league against 
the Pagan and the Portuguese. A few years previously the 
island and town of Bombay had been ceded to England as part 
of the dower of Catherine of Braganza, and had become thereby 
so much an integral part of Great Britain that every native in 


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si8 The Middle Age 

it, every child born there, had the right to claim every privilege 
of a British subject. 

Fort St George, the nucleus of Madras, was finally established, 
and the group of factories around it formed into a presidency. 
Job Charnock had founded Calcutta, and Hugli was soon to be 
merged in it. 

Then a new note had come into the dealings of the English 
with the accession of James II. A large shareholder, he promised 
the East India Company military support, and henceforward the 
" native powers were to be given to understand that the Company 
would treat with them as an independent power, and, if necessary, 
compell redress by force of arms. ,, In consequence of this the 
President, Sir John Child, was appointed "Captain-General and 
Admiral of all forces by sea and land." 

Poor Sir John Child ! He was the first instance of a cat's-paw 
in the East (there have been many since !), and when the 
tortuous policy of the Company towards the Great Moghul failed, 
and they found it impossible to hunt with the hounds and run 
with the hare, by making war in Bengal, and wearing a mask of 
friendship in Bombay, he went to the wall promptly in obedience 
to Aurungzebe's "irreversible order" that "Mr Child, who did 
the disgrace, should be turned out and expelled." 

But there was more disgrace than the making of a scapegoat 
out of one man in store for the old original East India Company. 
How much of the dirt flung at it in the next ten years or so 
deserves to stick ? Who can tell ? Or who can say how much of 
the moil and turmoil which arose around it was due to honest 
John Bull's honest love of clean hands, and how much to the 
itching of bis palm ? When gold is in dispute, motives are hard 
to dissever, impossible to pigeonhole. And in those days the 
Pagoda Tree was in full bearing, the gold lay on Tom Tiddler's 
ground ready to be picked up. So, at least, it must have seemed 
to England. 

A terrible temptation to all sorts of sins. And so we have 
allegations of bribery, Parliamentary enquiries, scandalous dis- 
closures, petitions, answers at length, impeachment of the Duke 
of Leeds, convenient disappearance of the Duke's servant, final 
hint by the disturbed king — William of Orange — that disclosures 
and exposures were out of season, as he was under the necessity 
of " putting an end to this session in a few days." 

So at last we get at Act 9, William III., c. 44, for "raising a 


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Aurungzefce 2i<) 

sum not exceeding 2,000,000 upon a fund for payment of annuities 
after the rate of £% per annum, and for settling the trade to the 
East Indies? 

Thus the new company, started by solemn act of legislature, was 
left eyeing the old one. At first there seemed likelihood of their 
fighting it out like the Kilkenny cats. But in the pursuit of gold 
the main chance is a potent factor for peace. And so, while 
Aurungzebe, near his life's limit, was still, in his ninth decade of 
years, wearily pursuing the Mahratta, Earl Godolphin, Lord High 
Treasurer of Great Britain, as referee, succeeded in reconciling 
the conflicting claims of commerce, and — to make his award 
binding on both parties — inserted a special clause in an Act of 
Parliament, by which the old London East India Company and 
the new English East India Company were for ever amalgamated 
under the title of the " United Company of Merchants of England 
trading to the East Indies." 

By this arrangement there passed to one control in India 
alone, the ports and islands of Bombay, the factories of Surat, 
Sivalli, Broach, of Amadad, Agra, Lucknow, and on the Malabar 
Coast, the forts of Karwar, Tellicherri, Anjengo, besides the 
factory at Calicut. Rounding Cape Cormorin, the coast of 
Coromandel held Orissa, Chingi, Fort St George, the city of 
Madras and its dependencies ; Fort St David, the factories of 
Cuddalore, Porto-Novo, Pettipoli, Masulipatam, Madapollam, 
Vizagapatam. Going northward to Bengal there was Fort 
William or Culcutta, with its large territory, Balasore, Cossim- 
bazaar, Dacca, Hugli, Malda, Rajmahal, and Patna. 

From which long list may be seen how steady had been the 
nibbling at India's coral strand during the last fifty years. The 
grant of Culcutta, with leave thereupon to erect fortifications, 
was practically the beginning of the end. This was almost the 
last act of Aurungzebe's reign. Shortly after, he lay dying, a 
man of eighty-nine, still in full possession of his faculties. 

There is something very terrible about the death-bed of this 
man, who for fifty long years had held, without aid of any sort, 
the reins of Government. He had no friends ; he could not trust 
any one sufficient for friendship. His one lukewarm affection 
seems to have been for his intriguing sister Roshanrai, the 
woman who had sate beside his sick-bed guarding the Great 
Seal. For others he had literally no heart. 

So in his death he was quite alone. Except for his remorse. 


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220 The Middle Age 

" Old age has arrived. ... I came a stranger into this world, 
and a stranger I depart. I know nothing of myself; what I 
am, and for what I am destined. The instant which has passed 
in power, hath left only sorrow behind it. I have not been the 
guardian and protector of the Empire. My valuable time has 
been passed vainly. I had a guide given me in my own dwelling " 
(conscience), " but his glorious light was unseen by my dim sight. 
I brought nothing into this world, and, except the infirmities of 
man, take nothing out. I have a dread for my salvation and 
with what torments I may be punished. . . . Regarding my actions 
fear will not quit me ; but when I am gone, reflection will not 
remain. Come, then, what come may, I have launched my vessel 
to the waves. Farewell, Farewell — Farewell ! " 

So he wrote from his death -bed to his second son, and to 
his youngest thus : — 

" Son nearest to my heart ! The agonies of death come upon 
me fast. Wherever I look I see nothing but the Divinity. I 
am going ! Whatever good or evil I have done it was done 
for you? 

He was a great letter - writer. Three huge volumes of his 
epistles are still extant ; but even in these last solemn ones 
the absolute truth was not in them ; for under his pillow when 
he died a paper was found — a sort of will, in which he appoints 
his eldest son Emperor, bids his second be content with Agra 
and Bengal, while to the one "nearest his heart," the doubtful 
kingship of Bijapur and Golconda was gifted. Aurungzebe was 
diplomatic to the last. 


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A.D. 1707 

Before making our volte face> and in future chronicling the 
history of India from the Western standpoint, it will be well to 
see what this India was which England set herself deliberately 
to annex. 

So far as the East India Company was concerned, the vast 
peninsula was at this time what a huge slice of iced plum-cake 
upon a plate must be to a hungry mouse. That is to say, nice 
enough for outside nibblings, but with unexplored possibilities of 
plums within. Every now and again a bolder merchant would 
dive into the comparatively unknown centre, and come back 
laden possibly with idol-eyes, rich brocades, jewels in the rough. 

It must — to repeat ourselves— have been a tremendous tempta- 
tion having to live, as these early writers or clerks to John 
Company had, on the very verge of Tom Tiddler's ground — to 
have only to reach out their hands and touch a totally different 
world. A world which by virtue of immutable changelessness 
had not commuted the gold which the years had brought it 
into luxuries, but had stored it up uselessly in lavish ornamenta- 
tion and idle, almost unappropriated treasure. Except as a gaud 
for a woman, a toy for a babe, or a flourish of trumpets for some 
man who called himself noble, gold in India had practically no 
value, for the rich man lived in all ways much as the poor man 
lived. The standard of personal comfort had not risen - at all 


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222 The Modern Age 

either for the wealthy or the poverty-stricken during the four 
thousand years and odd since the splendours of Princess Draupadi's 
Swayamvara had been chronicled in the Mahabharata. An 
instant's thought will show us the effect which this hoarding of 
every diamond found in Golconda, of every bale of rich stuff 
made by some leisurely artificer, must have had upon the country. 
It became full to overflowing with scarcely recognised riches. To 
English traders, keen on commerce, India must indeed have been 
the land of Upside-down ; a land into which their gold was sucked 
down at the same time that astounding, almost undreamt-of 
treasures were literally vomited forth from every petty bazaar. 
Francois Bernier's views on this matter, and the conclusions 
which he draws from the indubitable facts which he observed, 
are so distinctly what may be called conventionally insular, that 
they serve well to show the attitude of mind in which the West, 
strong in conviction of its own worth, faced the East, all unfamiliar 
and startling. 

" Before I conclude," he says, in a letter addressed to M. Colbert, 
the French Minister of State, " I wish to explain how it happens 
that though the gold and silver introduced into the Empire 
centre finally in Hindustan, they still are not in greater plenty 
than elsewhere, and the inhabitants have less the appearance 
of a monied people than those of many other parts of the globe. 

" In the first place, a larger quantity is melted, re-melted, and 
wasted in fabricating women's bracelets, both for the hands and 
feet, chains, ear-rings, nose and finger rings, and a still larger 
quantity is consumed in manufacturing embroideries ; alachas or 
striped silken stuffs, touras or tufts of golden nets worn on 
turbans ; gold and silver cloths and scarves, turbans, and brocades. 
The quantity of these articles made in India is incredible." 

He then goes on to paint, in vivid, horror-stricken phrases, the 
evils of a paternal despotism, pointing out that it is "slavery," 
that it "obstructs the progress of trade," since there is no 
encouragement to commercial pursuits when the "success with 
which they may be attended, instead of adding to the enjoy- 
ments of life, only provokes the cupidity of a neighbouring tyrant." 
This we are assured is the sole cause why the "possessor, so 
far from living with increased comfort, studies the means by 
which he may appear indigent : his dress, lodging, and furniture 
continue to be mean, and* he is careful, above all things, never 
to indulge in the pleasures of the table." 


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The beginning of the Eighteenth Century 223 

Poor Bernier ! And after more than a hundred years of com- 
parative freedom under British rule there was still not a face- 
towel or a bit of soap in an Indian household ; not a chair, not 
a table, and the simple food, cooked over a hole dug in the ground, 
was served on leaf- plates set upon the floor. For luxury has 
hitherto passed India by. Will it do so in the future ? Who can 

The state of the arts In India evidently puzzled Bernier's Western . 
brain, and he sets to work to And out some occult cause for the 
undoubted skill of the artisan. He asserts that 

"no artist can be expected to give his mind to his calling" with- 
out the stimulus of personal advantage, " and that the arts would 
long ago have lost their beauty and delicacy if the monarch and 
the principal nobles did not keep the artists in their pay to work 
in their houses." 

Then :— 

" The protection afforded by powerful patrons, rich merchants 
and traders, who give the workmen rather more than the usual 
wages, tends to preserve the arts ; rather more wages, for it should 
not be inferred from the goodness of the manufactures that the 
workman is held in esteem, or arrives at a state of independence. 
Nothing but sheer necessity or blows from a cudgel keeps him 

And this in a country where, to this day, the pride of hereditary 
dexterity in hand and eye is handed down from father to son, and 
to say of a coppersmith or a carpenter or a weaver in brocades : 
" His grandfather, see you, was a real ustad (teacher)," is to raise 
that man above his fellows. Once more, poor Bernier ! He might 
have learnt something from the eager-faced, lissome-fingured Indian 
smith, who, handling a gun made by Manton, laid it down reverently 
and salaamed to it as if it had been a god, with these simple 
words : " He who made that was a Great Artificer." 

Here we have epitomised the true artistic temperament. 

But it needs art to apply the solvent of sympathy ; and the 
dealings of the West with the East were at this time purely 
commercial; so we meet with absolute, almost pathetic lack of 
comprehension. Indeed, as we read with painstaking care every 
record that exists of these Western dealings with the East at this 
period, we know not whether to laugh or to cry at the spectacle 


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224 The Modern Age 

presented to us of mutual misunderstanding. India is a problem 
even now. What must it have been then, to these worthy Lombard 
Street merchants who knew nothing of ancient faiths and past 
civilisations, who looked on the native of India as a barbarian 
utterly. What a shock it must have been to them, when a native 
accountant, given some abstruse problem in arithmetic, solved it 
lightly, easily, by algebra ! Small wonder that, finding the Hindu 
circle divided into 360 equal parts and the ratio of diameter to 
circumference expressed correctly at 1 to 3.14160 they credited 
Alexander's Greek phalanxes with being mathematical teachers 
as well as conquerors. Small wonder that every discovery of 
scientific knowledge amongst these "barbarians" should have 
been referred to some contact with the West. 

It required long years before due credit could be given to the 
East ; it is doubtful indeed whether sufficient credit is given to it 
even now. Who, for instance, knows of the accurate trigono- 
metrical tables of India, in which sines are used instead of the 
Greek chords ? — or of their framer, of whom Professor Wallace 
writes : — 

"He who first formed the idea of exhibiting in arithmetical 
tables the ratios of the sides and angles of all possible triangles 
must have been a man of profound thought and extensive know- 
ledge. However ancient, therefore, any book may be in which we 
meet with a system of trigonometry, we may be assured that it was 
not written in the infancy of the science. Hence, we may conclude 
that geometry must have been known in India long before the 
writing of the * Surya Siddhanta.' " 

Now this book on Astronomy was written at the latest com- 
putation about the year a.d. 400. Centuries before this, therefore, 
India was aware of certain of those inviolable laws of our Universe, 
in the apprehension of which lies humanity's best hope of 
immortality. And there is one curious fact about these vestiges 
of ancient knowledge which Professor Playfair has noted in a 
pregnant remark concerning these same trigonometrical tables. 
" They have the appearance, like many other things in the science 
of these Eastern nations, of being drawn by one who was more 
deeply versed in the subject than may at first be imagined^ and 
who knew much more than he thought it necessary to communicate? 

It is a remark which stimulates the imagination. 


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The beginning of the Eighteenth Century 225 

But as a matter of fact the Western imagination of those days 
appears not to have been stimulated at all by anything save the 
prospect of plunder. And in truth the hoarded wisdom of the 
East was not nearly so much in evidence as its hoarded wealth. 
In Akbar's time some effort had been made to give such wisdom 
fair hearing. There is small doubt, for instance, but that his 
study of the kingcraft chapters of the Mahabharata had done 
much towards making Akbar what he was — the best ruler India 
has ever seen, or is likely to see ; but, taking it as a whole, the 
tide of Mahomedan conquest had simply submerged Hindu 
learning, and the rising flood of Mahratta power was not one whit 
less prejudicial to philosophy. But below the troubled surface of 
wars and rumours of wars the heart of India dreamt on undis- 
turbed. All things, as ever, were illusion. TJie Wheel - of - Life 
revolved between the pivots of Birth and Death, so what mattered 
it whether the painted zoetrope showed the yellow face of a 
Toorkh from the North, or the white one of a trader from the 
West ? Both sought gold ; and even gold was illusion. 

It is quaint to think, say, of those pirates of Arracan bursting in 
upon a crowd of pilgrims round some ancient shrine, and carrying 
off the whole concern, as it were— -priests, worshippers, offerings, 
even the idol-eyes, leaving the empty sockets staring out helplessly 
at the deserted village. 

But there are many such quaint items to be added to our 
picture gallery of India in the beginning of the eighteenth century, 
not the least of these being the spectacle of Job Charnock, the 
founder of Calcutta, carrying off from amongst the very flames 
of her husband's funeral pyre the Hindu widow who afterwards 
became his wife. 

For on the confines of the various factories in the contiguous 
lands which had been won from Moghul rule by purchase, or bribe, 
or treaty, English laws had already begun to oust native customs. 
Indeed, quite an elaborate legal procedure, duly decked with Courts 
of Appeal, had been set up in the three presidencies. So far, it 
is to be feared, without much benefit to the people, for those who 
held the power seem ever to have been more occupied by the rules 
of commerce than those of justice. 

Already, also, each presidency had its own regular army. This 
was composed first of recruits from England, sent out by the 
Company in their ships ; secondly, of adventurers who had deserted 
from other European armies and had come out to the East to 


Digitized by VjOOQIC 

226 The Modern Age 

seek their fortunes ; thirdly, of half-caste Indo-Europeans, the off- 
spring of mixed marriages. In the beginning of the eighteenth 
century a few pure natives were enlisted, and from this time the 
Sepoy army of John Company grew by leaps and bounds. 

As yet, however, there was no attempt at the policy of pike 
and carronade. That had been disastrous in the days of Sir 
John Child ; so the small armies — the garrison of Calcutta in 
1707 was raised to three hundred men — were kept simply for 

The insecure state of the country, also, which followed on Aurung- 
zebe's death led to greater caution on the part of the Company. 
Hitherto, its clerks and merchants and agents had themselves 
carried their English goods to the various markets in the interior 
of the country ; but now orders were issued directing everything 
to be sold by auction at the port of import, thus minimising the 
risk of loss. 

A simple order which, nevertheless, must have had far-reaching 
results, since it introduced the middleman between the English 
merchants and the people of India ; an unscrupulous middleman 

Then the method employed, and necessarily employed, in the 
collection of the calicoes and other woven cotton-stuffs which at 
this time formed the staple of Indian trade was one which made 
fair dealing almost impossible. For there were no large merchants 
with whom the Company could deal. It had therefore to elaborate 
an agency of its own, by which it could come in contact with 
the weaver, who— ever one of the most poverty-stricken of Indian 
artisans — required raw material and sustenance given him before 
he could keep his rude loom going. 

A fateful affair this ! One European functionary issuing orders 
to a native secretary, he employing a native agent, who in his 
turn calls together the local brokers, who send out to village and 
towns by their paid messengers and advance cotton and money to 
the actual workmen. Here indeed were sufficient loopholes for 
fraud. Each one of these men had, in addition to his poor pay, 
to find secret gratification for himself and for those who were 
supposed to keep an eye upon him. The wretched weaver, of 
course, coming off worst in the scramble, being made, first, to 
work as he had never worked before, and secondly, as a set-off 
to the sustenance given, to take a price often 40 per cent, less than 
the work would have fetched in open market. 


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The beginning of the Eighteenth Century 227 

But the rate of pay which at this time the Company offered to 
its servants tells in unmistakable brevity the whole tale of its 

The salary of a president was but ^300 a year, that of a factor 
but ^20. Even when Bengal was practically ceded to it, and all 
power, judicial and executive, vested in its servants, the pay of 
a man who had almost unlimited power, and who had doomed 
himself to a life of exile, was but ^130. Yet the actual profit of 
the East India Company at this time was nothing prodigious ; 
it barely touched 8 per cent, on the capital employed. Still, 
the monopoly must have been valuable, for the efforts made to 
retain it would fill volumes ; and one Act of Parliament followed 
another, prohibiting foreign adventure to India under penalty of 
forfeiture of triple the sum embarked, and declaring all British 
subjects found in India who were not in the Company's service 
liable to seizure and punishment, and generally crying "hands 
off" to all and sundry. 

The Portuguese power in India had by this time dwined 
away ; none too soon for its reputation. It had suffered reverses 
at many hands, not least of these being one dealt by itself ; for 
the story of Bah&dur-Shah, the king of Guzerat, is not one to 
bring credit with it. 

He had entered into negotiations with the Portuguese, had 
granted them many favours, amongst others the right to build 
a factory. This, however, they surrounded with a wall which 
converted the whole into a fortification. Bab&dur - Shah remon- 
strated, and was met with fair words from Nuno de Cunha, the 
Portuguese viceroy, who, however, came tp the conference with a 
suspiciously martial fleet containing over four thousand fighting- 
men. Now, whether the Portuguese historians are right in attri- 
buting meditated treachery to the Mahomedans, or the historians 
of the latter are right in attributing it to the Portuguese, matters 
little in face of what actually happened. The viceroy, feigning 
sickness as an excuse for not paying his respects on land, the king, 
with but a few unarmed attendants, went to meet him on the 
admiral's ship. Once there, he became alarmed at whisperings 
and signs that were passing between the viceroy and his officers, 
and took a basty leave. Hardly had he reached his boat, how- 
ever, when he was attacked. Being a good swimmer he flung 
himself into the sea, was pursued, struck over the head with an oar f 
and when he clung to it, was finally despatched with a halbert. 


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L * 

228 The Modern Age 

The facts are brutal. Nothing can extenuate them, and though 
the affray may have originated in mutual distrust and alarm, there 
can be no doubt that such evidence of premeditated treachery as 
there is points to the Portuguese as the real criminals. 

By the beginning of the eighteenth century, however, they had 
retired to Further India, there to repeat their brilliant but evanes- 
cent career of conquest, and in 1739 they finally ceded theU few 
remaining possessions in the Konkan to the Mahratta power. 

But their influence lives still all along the western coast, where 
to this day a large proportion of the people are professedly Roman 
Catholic, the descendants of the converts who, it is said, flocked 
in thousands to be baptized by St Francis Xavier. This, how- 
ever, is extremely doubtful. Yet even the Portuguese power was 
but a sea-board influence, the nibblings, as it were, of the Western 
mouse upon the rich cake of India. 

Inside this frayed and fraying fringe of contact with the out- 
side world India was very much what it had been always, what 
in a way it will be always. So far as princes and principalities 
went it was a very distracted country ; so far as the peasantry 
went it was a very peaceful one. But neither prince nor peasant 
seemed to realise that a great change was imminent. 

One of the most curious points about this coming change was 

that though the greed of gold was undoubtedly the chief factor 

J ' in bringing it about, the first two solid holds which the English 

I ;* v got on India were due to the skill, not of British diplomacy or 

I British commerce, but of British medici ne. It was in consequence 

£ of the services rendered by Ship's surgeon nahnVl ttmifrhtftn t<^ 

the Emperor Sbahjahan's beloved daughter Jahanara, when she 

was as a child badly burnt, that the Old East India Company 

gained the right to trade in Bengal free of all duty > this being 

♦ the only fee asked — sureTy a public-spirited and disinterested one. 

1 And equally so was the only fee demanded by Staff Surgeon 

William Hamilton in 1715 for curing the decadent Emperor 

f*'"i Farokhshir of a tumour in the back which had resisted the 

efforts of all the court physicians. He asked for the first sizable 

grant of land on the Indian peninsula which had ever been given 

to any foreign power: that is to say, for thirty -seven villages 

contiguous to the factory at Calcutta, which gave the English 

— "~~ command of the river for 10 miles south of the port, for some 

villages near Madras, which consolidated that pied d terre ; and 

ibr the island of Din on the western coast 


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The beginning of the Eighteenth Century 229 

These two fees, given by gratitude for services rendered, were 
practically the fee simple of all India. .. 

Some vague recognition!)? this fact doubtless prompted the 
epitaph on William Hamilton's neglected tombstone in Calcutta, 
which runs thus : — 

His memory ought to be dear to his Nation 
v For the credit he gained the English 

in curing Ferrukseer 
the present King of Hindustan 
of a malignant distemper 
By which he made his own name famous 
At the Court of that Great Monarch 
And without doubt will perpetuate his memory 
as well in Great Britain as all other 
Nations in Europe. 

He died, 4th December 1717. Gabriel Boughton, his prede- 
cessor in patriotism, dying God knows when, being buried God A 
knows where. ' 

So the epitaph is a trifle over-confident ; for Great Britain has 
a trick of forgetting her most faithful servants. 

f I 



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A.D. 1707 TO A.D. 1738 

The story of Siva-ji has already been told. His early decease, 
while it did not materially check the rising flood of Mahratta 
power, certainly left the invading West a freer hand along the 
shores of India from Bombay to Calicut. 

For Siva-ji seems to have had a genius for sea, as well as 
for land warfare. It was his unerring eye which, seizing on an 
island along the coast overlooked hitherto by both Portuguese 
and English, had it fortified for use as a point cPappui, whence 
he could control the shipping north and south. Indeed, having 
in view the fact that he was the only person who managed in 
any way to harass English fleets, it seems not unlikely that, 
had he lived longer, British commerce would have been longer, 
also, in finding firm foothold in India. 

But he died, and his son Samba-ji died also, meanly, miserably. 
That, however, only delayed the inevitable for a short time. 
The Mahratta star was in the ascendant, that of the Moghuls 
was sinking fast, and the death of Aurungzebe accelerated both 
ascent and descent. 

To begin with, it ended what may be called the Rajput acqui- 
escence in empire ; that is to say, their acceptance of " Akbar's 
Dream" as an ideal, which by good fortune might become real. 
It was an ideal absolutely foreign to the whole Rajput spirit, 
the whole Rajput theory of life. In their State - Politic, one 
chieftain had as independent a position as any other chieftain, 
and even amongst the followers of those chieftains none was 
really before or after the other. Every Rajput owed equal fealty to 
his race, was equally free to defend his own rights as he chose. 
Yet side by side with this curious individual independence ran 
what, for want of a better word, we may call a feudal bond betwixt 

Digitized by VjOOQIC 

The Rise of the Mahratta Power 231 

follower and chieftain, between chieftain and suzerain. Akbai-'s 
Dream of Empire had been antagonistic to this, yet they had 
accepted that Dream at his hands, and at his death the mere 
fact of his heir Jah&ngir being half a Rajput by birth, had 
helped them to forget what they had given up to the dead 
man's genius. Shahjahan was still more Rajput. In his veins 
there flowed but one -fourth of the hated Mahomedan blood, 
so they bore with him. But with Aurungzebe it was different. 
Born of a Mahomedan mother, the old race intolerance showed 
in him early, and from the moment he set his foot on the 
throne, alienation of loyalty began actively, passively, so that 
by the time the bigot's reign of fifty years was over, every 
Rajput in India was ripe for revolt ; a fact which naturally was 
in favour of the Mahrattas, since it weakened the power of the. 
Moghuls. It was still more favourable to the advancement of the 
West, since with India engaged in internecine strife, attention 
was withdrawn from many a seemingly slight advance which yet 
was the first step to final conquest. Naturally, after Aurungzebe's 
anxious efforts to settle the succession by means of a last will 
and testament, his sons immediately came to blows over the 
business ; in which quarrel the best claimant appears to have 
gone to the wall, for Azim, the second son, was defeated and 
killed near Agra by his elder brother, Shah-Alam, and Kambaksh, 
the youngest, shortly afterwards drew death down on himself 
by a desperate defiance near Hyderabad. Thus Shah-Alam was 
left to face the situation for five years under the title of Bahadur- 
Shah. It is worthy of note that he, the first puppet-emperor of 
Delhi, had thus the same name as the last, the old man Bahadur- 
Sh&h, who, after dallying with disgrace and deceit in 1857 went 
to end his miserable life in the Andaman Islands. 

Bah&dur-Shah the First found his hands full. Having pursued 
Kambaksh to the very confines of the Dekkan, it was necessary 
ere returning northward to settle the Rajput rebellion (which 
was becoming daily less restrained), and to temporise in some way 
with the Mahrattas. And here a piece of diplomacy on the part 
of the dead brother, Azim, served Bahadur's turn well. The former, 
when advancing to dispute the crown, had sought to strengthen 
his position and protect his rear by giving back to the Mahrattas 
the rightful heir to Siva-ji's throne in the person of his grandson 
Saho, who had been kept in captivity by the Moghuls ever since 
his father Samba-ji had paid the penalty for blasphemy amongst 


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232 The Modern Age 

the Mahometans, and so been made a martyr by the Mahrattas. 
It was a wily move, for during the young claimant's long incar- 
ceration, another pretender to Siva-ji's crown had arisen. Azim- 
Shah, therefore, had deliberately started a successional dispute 
in the hopes of being thereby freed for a time of troublesome 

The ruse succeeded, and Bahadur-Shah, by ratifying his brother's 
promise of favourable peace should the young pretender succeed 
in establishing his claim, managed to keep the Mahrattas quiet 
for some years. 

He was less fortunate with the Rajput confederacy, though he 

was prepared to give up all things but the mere name of Empire. 

In the case of Oudipur (Chitore) he- went so far as to restore all 

annexations, to release it from the obligation of furnishing a 

contingent, to abolish the infidel capitation tax, or jizyia^ and 

to re-establish religious toleration as it had existed in the time 

of Akbar. He could not well have done more ; but for once — 

almost for the only time in Indian history — a faint political 

feeling is here to be traced. For even the removal of the hated 

, > . iizyia was not enough for the Rajput ; he wanted, and he meant 

I to have, independence. This is — or seems to be—the only occasion 

in all the long~centuries of Indian history which gives us a hint 

of any recognition on the part of the people of political rights, 

and as such it is peculiarly interesting. Unfortunately, it is so 

mixed up with the religious motive that it is impossible to say 

if it really gives ground for supposing that we have here a faint 

realisation of the rights of the individual. 

While Bahidur-Shih was engaged in pacifying the Rajputs by 

j\^ the relinquishment of everything, he was suddenly called to the 

£ Punjab by an insurrection amongst the Sikhs. 

Ninuk, their original founder, had lived in Akbar's time ; a 

) time peculiarly productive of religious enthusiasms all over the 

world. And Ninuk was a religious enthusiast pure and simple. 

,- Of the soldier caste, the son of a grain merchant, he was devote 

from childhood. Much travel and mature manhood turned him 

into an almost inspired preacher of the Theistic doctrines of 

Kibir, who in his turn was a disciple of the great Ramanuja. 

Concerning this same Kabir there is a curious legend, the recital 

of which may serve to impress the memory with the most salient 

feature of his teaching — his tolerance. 

The tale runs that at his death the Mahomedans claimed the 


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The Rise of the Mahratta Power 233 

right to bury the saint, the Hindus to burn him ; in consequence 
of which there was a free fight over the corpse, in the midst of 
which the still, white-shrouded form lay, mutely appealing for 
peace. And lo ! when blood had been uselessly spilt, and a 
compromise effected, it was found that beneath the white sheet 
was no dead man, only where his holy head had lain grew a 
sweet basil plant, sacred to the God Vishnu, only where his 
holy feet had touched, a perfumed rehan bush, green as the 
green of the Prophet's turban ! 

Nanuk, then, was a preacher, a quietest, and being possessed 
of this spirit of universal charity, was allowed, naturally, to live 
in peace during the reign of that past - master in tolerance, 
Akbar. At his death, however, the rapid increase of the sect 
attracted the unfavourable notice of Jahangir, and Nanuk was 
cruelly put to death. The usual result followed. Armed with 
a sainted martyr, religion became fanaticism. Har-Govind, the 
murdered man's son, brought revenge and hatred to his holding 
of the supreme pontiff-ship, and from this time the Sikhs, expelled 
forcibly from their, lands, presented from the mountains north % 
of Lahore an unbroken front of rebellion to the Government. 

It was not, however, till 1675 tnat > under Govind, the tenth 
Guru (or spiritual head of the sect) from Nanuk its founder, the 
Sikhs formed themselves into an aggressive military common- t 
wealth. / 

Guru Govind was a wise man. Numbers were his first need, 
so he set to work to establish a creed wide enough to contain 
all converts, attractive enough to compel them to come in. 

Caste was abolished ; Mahomedan or Hindu, Brahman or 
Pariah, were alike when once the oath of fealty was taken, when 
once the new-made Sikh had vowed to be a religious soldier, 
to carry cold steel about with him from birth to death, to wear 
blue clothes always, and never to clip a hair which God had sent 
to grow upon him. In order still further to emphasise the separa- 
tion of the Sikh from his fellows, new methods of salutation, new 
ceremonials for all the principal events of life, were instituted. 

Nothing more interesting in the annals of heredity exists than 
the startling rapidity of the change thus brought about in the 
Sikhs. They are now — that is, after two hundred years— (as they 
were, indeed, after a scant one hundred) as distinct a race as any 
in India, with as well marked a national character as any of the 
original peoples of India. 


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234 The Modern Age 

So far, therefore, Guru Govind was successful ; but his personal 
mission proved disastrous. Despite his diplomacy, he failed in 
numbers ; his foes were too strong for him, and in the end the 
pontiff saw all his fortresses taken, his mother and his children 
murdered, his followers tortured, dispersed, or killed. 

This was in Aurungzebe's time, that most bigoted and blood- 
thirsty of pious kings. The closing years of his reign, however, 
found him with all his energies centred on the Dekkan, and 
almost immediately after his death, the Sikhs recovered from their 
stupor, and having found a new, and this time an unscrupulously 
cruel leader, broke out into almost incredible excesses of revenge. 
They ravaged Sirhind, they brutally butchered whole towns, and 
after penetrating southward as far as Saharunpur, retreated to 
the Cis and Trans-Sutlej states, which are to this day the strong- 
hold of the Sikh faith. 

It was against these stalwart rebels — for one of the quickly 
acquired national characteristics of the Sikhs is unusual physical 
height and breadth — that Bahidur-Shih had to march in person. 
He managed with infinite trouble to besiege the chief offenders 
in a hill-fort, whence, after enduring the utmost extremities of 
famine, they made a wild sally, headed, apparently, by their 
leader Banda, who, after making himself conspicuous by desperate 
resistance, was captured and brought to the Mahomedan camp 
in triumph. Once there, however, the prisoner threw aside his 
borrowed rdle^ openly declared himself nothing but a poor Hindu 
convert who had dared all to save his Guru, and taunted his 
captors with having fallen into the trap and allowed the real 
Banda to escape them ! 

It is pleasantly noteworthy to find that Bah&dur-Sh&h, struck 
by the man's self-devotion, spared his life. 

Before, however, the further endeavours to secure the real 
leader and crush the Sikhs were successful, the emperor himself 
fell sick and died, and the usual turmoil of murder and intrigue 
followed, which ended in the temporary enthronement, at the 
instigation of Zulfikar Khan (who had been chief instrument in 
the late king's succession), of the eldest son, Jahindar-Shali. An 
inveterate intriguer was this same Zulfikar. He it was who had 
suggested hampering the hands of the Mahrattas by presenting 
them with a new claimant for their crown ; and now he chose 
his nominee — despatching the remainder of the royal family 
instanter— because Jahandar, weak, vicious, enslaved by a public 


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The Rise of the Mahratta Power 235 

dancer, offered himself an easy prey to Zulfikar's desire to be the 
real ruler. 

But Farokhshir, son of one of the murdered princes, who had 
escaped massacre by being in Bengal, had just sufficient spunk in 
him to oppose the maker of puppet-kings. Fortune favoured him 
miraculously, quite irrationally, and — surely to his own surprise 
— he found himself marching on Delhi, victorious, triumphant 
But the whole affair had degenerated — as purely Indian history 
after the death of Aurungzebe so often does degenerate — into 
transpontine melodrama and comic opera, and he was met at the 
gates by an obsequious Zulfikar and his still more obsequious 
papa, both ready, willing, and eager to deliver up their prisoner, 
the late Emperor Jahandar, and take the oath of allegiance to 
the new one, Farokhshir. 

But this passed. It was, to use a vulgarism, "too thick" even 
for a debased Moghul. So the double-dyed traitor was calmly 
strangled in the imperial tent, Jahandar was quietly put out of 
the way, and Farokhshir reigned in his stead. 

One is irresistibly reminded, as one reads the records of the 
few following reigns, of the terrible annals of the Slave and Khilji 
Kings. There is only this to choose between them, that the 
latter concerned themselves with kings who, however degenerate, 
were at least real, whereas these occupants of Akbar's throne, 
Farokhshir, the two infant princes who were in turn raised to 
power by political factions, and Mahomed-Shah, were all purely 

The first-named, who owed his kingdom entirely to the ability 
for intrigue of two Syyeds of Ba'rr'ha, spent his time largely in 
trying to emancipate himself from their claims on his gratitude. 
His was a feeble, futile nature, a feeble, futile reign. During it 
the Mahrattas, becoming tired of their civil war of succession, 
began *o renew their depredations along the Moghul frontiers. 
But in all ways Farokhshir was a timid creature; so nothing, 
great was done to hold the marauders in check. He, however, 
through the aid of a general with an unpronounceable name, was 
equal to a final tussle and final crushing of the Sikh zealots, seven 
hundred and forty-nine of whom, defeated and taken prisoners to 
Delhi, were duly paraded through the streets, exposed to various 
indignities, and finally beheaded in batches of one hundred and 
eleven on seven successive days of the week. 

Their leader, Banda, was, however, reserved for more refined 


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236 The Modern Age 

barbarity. Nothing in the whole annals of history can exceed 
in devilish malignant cruelty the revolting details of the treat- 
ment meted out to this man, who had himself, it is true, led 
the way in lack of humanity ! They are sickening to read, and 
shall not be repeated here. 

Farokhshir only reigned six years. By that time even his 
masters, the Syyeds, had tired of him, and despite his abject 
submission, he was finally dragged from the women's apartments, 
a faint, frightened shadow of a king, and privately made away with. 

But these same Syyeds — king-makers as they justly called them- 
selves — were unfortunate in their choice of a successor. They 
set up one young prince of the blood, who promptly died of con- 
sumption in less than three months. They followed him with 
another, who as promptly followed his example in less time. 

The question naturally presents itself — was it tuberculosis or 
some other toxin ? Who can say ? 

They then, in despair, chose a healthy young man. But the 
public confidence in them as king-makers was waning, and almost 
before the new emperor — who was enthroned in the title of 
Mahomed-Shah— was firmly settled in his seat, Hussan-Ali — the 
most powerful of the two Syyeds — was assassinated in his palan- 
quin, and his brother, after vainly trying to hold his own single- 
handed, was defeated and made prisoner near Delhi, his life 
being spared out of respect for his sacred lineage — Syyeds being 
descended directly from the great Prophet. 

And all this time, while emperors intrigued against ministers, 
and ministers intrigued against emperors, while here and there 
some austere old Mahomedan like Asaf-Jah (whilom Grand Vizier, 
and afterwards Governor in the Dekkan), who remembered the 
bigoted decorum of Aurungzebe's court, lifted up voice of warn- 
ing and held up holy hands of horror— all this time the Western 
nibblings continued on the sea-coast, and in the interior the 
Mahratta power was growing day by day. 

For some time the Moghuls kept themselves fairly secure of it 
by pitting Samba, the one claimant to the crown, against Siho, 
the other claimant. But Siho found a friend in the person of one 
Bala-ji, a Brahmin, who began life as a mere village accountant. 
Ere long, however, he was his master's right hand, and it was by 
his wits that Siho found himself no longer a mere vassal of the 
empire, but an independent ruler, entitled to claim endless minor 
dues over a large extent of land. A quick wit was this of Bala-ji's, 


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The Rise of the Mahratta Power 237 

which recognised the infinite opportunities for encroachments and 
interference given by widespread, ill-defined rights. 

In the confusion worse confounded which ensued, the Mahratta 
scored invariably against the Moghul, and when B&la-ji died, his 
son, still more capable, still more astute, took up the prime 
minister or Peishwa-ship, and with it his father's life-work. 

Now, there is no doubt that this son, by name Baji-Rao, is, 
after Siva-ji, by far the ablest Mahratta of history. 

He was a warrior, born and bred in camps, a statesman educated 
ably by his father, a man frank and free, hardy beyond most, 
content to live on a handful of unhusked grain, vital to the finger- 

He found himself confronted by a Peace-party, who would fain 
have paused to consolidate what had already been won, to suppress 
civil discord, and generally to give a firm administrative grip on 
the south of India before attempting further conquests on the 

But Baji-Rao was clear-sighted ; he saw the difficulties of this 
policy. To attempt the consolidation of what was still absolutely 
fluid, to bid the bands of predatory horsemen which constituted the 
Mahratta army suddenly lay down their lances or turn them into 
ox goads, would be fatal. 

The only chance of peace was to form a regular army out of 
these robber hordes, give that army work to do, and so establish a 
stern military control as the first and most necessary step towards 
a fixed Government. 

The Moghul empire lay ready to hand, rotten at the core, simply 
waiting to be overthrown. 

He therefore urged his master to "strike the withered trunk, 
when the branches will fall of themselves," and roused the lazy, 
somewhat luxurious Siho to such enthusiasm that he swore he 
would plant his victorious standard on Holy Himalaya itself. 

The career of Saho - plus - Baji - Rao was singularly successful. 
Ere long, after harassing the Dekkan, he forced his rival, Samba, 
to yield him almost the whole Mahratta country except a portion 
about Kolapur. Having done this, he turned himself to engage 
the Moghul force of thirty-five thousand men which had marched 
on him with the avowed object of delivering Siho from the terrible 
tyranny of Baji. This was defeated, and Siho-cum-Baji proceeded 
to apportion various parts of Southern India amongst the great 
Mahratta families. The Gaekwars of Baroda date from this time. 


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238 The Modern Age 

The Holkar of those days was but a shepherd-soldier, and the 
Scindias, though of good birth, a mere body # - servant of the 

Malwa was the next emprise, and though its Afghan governor 
effected his own personal escape by means of a rescue party from 
Rohilkand summoned by his wife, who sent her veil as a challenge 
to her brethren's honour, the whole rich province fell into Mahratta 
hands. The Rajah of Bundulkhund, alarmed, acceded to Baji- 
Rao's demands, and Jai-Singh of Ambe'r, hastily summoned by 
the Moghuls to defend their cause, after a futile and half-hearted 
resistance, also yielded. 

He was more of a scientist than a soldier was Jai-Singh, and 
would have been remarkable in any age for his astronomical work. 
His List of the Stars is still of importance. 

Hitherto, all these aggressions had been made by the Mahrattas 
under cover of claims ; those ill-defined, widespread rights of share 
and taxation which Bala-ji had started. Now, seeing his opponent's 
weakness, Saho - cum - Baji's demands rose, until even Moghul 
supineness could not submit to his terms. 

Nothing daunted, the former advanced on Delhi itself, but while 
his light cavalry under Holkar were ravaging the country about 
Agra, they were attacked and driven back by the Governor of 
Oudh, a man evidently of some spirit, for he had actually left his 
own province to defend the adjoining one. 

The skirmish was magnified into overwhelming victory by the 
Moghuls, and this so irritated Baji-cum-Saho, that he conceived and 
put into practice what was more an impish piece of mischief than 
a serious assault. 

Leaving the imperial army which had come out solemnly, solidly, 
to repel him on the right, he led his swarms of active freebooters 
by a detour to its rear, and then contemptuously disdaining an 
attack on the pompous martial array, made one almost unbroken 
march to the very gates of Delhi. 

Here was consternation indeed! The Mahrattas at the very 
steps of the throne, while the court army was seeking them in the 
wilderness ! 

His object, however, was mere intimidation ; as he phrased 
it himself: "Just to show the emperor that he could come if he 

So, after repelling with heavy loss one sally caused by the 
Moghul misapprehension of a retrogade movement he made beyond- 


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The Rise of the Mahratta Power 239 

the suburbs (which was due to his desire to prevent damage by 
his freebooting followers), he retreated as he came, just as the 
befogged, bewildered Moghul army, duly bedrummed, beflagged, 
and bedisciplined, was on the eve of arriving at Delhi. 

A sheer piece of devilry, no doubt. He had meant to have 
crossed the Jumna and looted the rich Gangetic plains, but the 
rainy season was due, and there was more comfortable work to 
be done in the Dekkan. 

Asaf-Jah, still active though old, followed him so soon as the 
weather permitted, and he could manage to scrape together 
sufficient soldiery ; but so low had the power of the Moghul fallen 
by this time, that he had to start with a bare thirty-five thousand 
men. Then ensued a campaign of some months on the old well- 
known lines. 

The regulars marching with difficulty, the irregulars harassing the 
line of march. The Moghuls entrenching themselves scientifically, 
the Mahrattas cutting off supplies, laying waste the country for 
miles, looting every baggage-train that tried to get in, and finally 
cutting off all communication with the base. There was nothing 
for it finally but retreat ; a slow retreat of 4 or 5 miles a day, 
the enemy's light cavalry hanging on the rear, harassing the dis- 
heartened army in every possible way. There could be but one 
end to it — almost unconditioned surrender. 

Baji-cum-Saho demanded the cession of all Malwa, the country 
between the rivers Nerbudda and the Chumbal, and an indemnity 
of fifty lacs of rupees, or five millions. 

Weighted down with these fateful terms, for which he promised 
to gain the emperor's sanction, poor Asaf-Jah continued his way 
Delhi-wards, Baji-cum-Saho marching a few days behind him to 
take present possession of his conquests. Whether Asaf-Jah's 
efforts would have resulted in confirmation of these terms or not 
cannot be said ; for this was in the year of grace 1738, and in 
the November of that year Nadir the Persian invaded India. 


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A.D. 1738 TO A.D. 1742 

The old cry once more ! 

Over the wheat-fields of the Punjab, just as the seed was bursting 
into green, that cry — 

• • The Toorkh ! The Toorkh ! " 

Surely no land on the globe has suffered so much from invasion 
as Hindustan? The mythical Snake-people first, coming from 
God knows where. . . . Then the Aryans, with their flocks and 
herds, from the Roof of the World. . . . Next the well-greaved 
Greeks, leaving their indelible mark on Upper India. ... So 
through Parthian, and Scythian, and Bactrian, to the wild, resist- 
less influx of Mongolian immigrations. Then finally Mahmud 
and Mahomed, Tamerlane and Babar . . . last of all, Nadir the 

His was an unprovoked, almost an unpremeditated invasion. 
It burst upon India like a monsoon storm, swift, lurid, almost 
terrible in the rapidity with which action follows menace. And 
like that same storm it came, it passed, and the blue, unclouded 
sky seemed far away from the desolation and havoc that had been 

In many ways this, the last, was the worst of all the sacks 
which India had suffered. To begin with, it came so late in 
time. Towards the middle of the eighteenth century one does 
not expect a robbing raid on so vast a scale. It seems almost 
incredible that art* army of eighty thousand men should march 
through a country bent on plunder, and plunder only. 

Then its sole object — gold — was such a mean one. No political 
reason lay at the back of the raid. Nadir had no ambitions. 
He did not wish to add to his kingship ; it was all wilful, wicked, 
merciless greed. 

Yet Nadir-Shah himself was not absolutely a mean man. He 


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The Invasion of Nddir 241 

was a native of Khorasan, that is to say, an Afghan, born of no 
particular family, but born a warrior. At the age of seventeen 
he was taken prisoner by the Usbeks, but after four years of 
captivity made his escape. 

Then he took service with the King of Khorasan, but, believing 
himself ill-rewarded for a success against the Tartars, threw up 
his command, and became, frankly, a freebooter. 

A few years later, on the shores of the Caspian Sea, he threw 
in his fortunes with those of a Persian princeling en retraite, and 
in his name fought a variety of battles, in which he was invariably 
victorious. They ended in the nominal restoration of Tahmasp 
to the throne of his fathers. But behind Tahmasp sate Nadir, 
who had become the idol of the Persian people ; and small wonder 
since he had raised the nation from abject slavery to such military 
glory as Persia has seldom possessed. 

It was necessary, however, to continue soldierly exploits ; so 
Nadir set to work to settle a dispute with the Turks who had 
taken Tabriz. He had recovered it, when trouble in Khorasan 
called him back, and kept him employed for so long, that when 
he returned to the capital, Isphahan, it was to find that his puppet 
Tahmasp had, during his absence, become a person of much 
importance, and was exercising all the royal prerogatives. 

This did not suit Nadir, so, on the excuse of lack of statesman- 
ship in concluding a treaty with the Turks, he deliberately deposed 
Tahmasp, and set his infant son in his stead. 

This was practically the beginning of Nadir's reign, but he 
refrained from assuming the title of King until many victories 
over the Turks and Russians had strengthened his hold on the 

Then, covered with glory, he assembled all the dignitaries, 
civil and military, to the number of about one hundred thousand 
in a sort of mutual admiration conference, when, no doubt by 
previous arrangement, they offered him the crown, which, after 
some display of surprise and reluctance, he was pleased to accept. 

Now this was all very deep-laid, very diplomatic ; but Nadir's 
cleverness was at times too clever. In some of his campaigns he 
had deliberately changed his religion — or rather his denomination 
— becoming Sunni instead of Shiah, in order to gain over a warlike 
tribe which was obdurately troublesome ; now, hoping to stamp 
out any sentimental attachment to the dynasty which he had 
just deposed, and whose claim to kingship rested entirely on 


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242 The Modern Age 

its championship of the Shiah tenets, he changed the national 
denomination, and declared Persia henceforward a Sunni country. 
It was a mistake ; for though the Sunni section was pleased, 
the Shiahs felt themselves alienated from their new king. 

In another way Nadir showed more sense. It was his great- 
ness as a general which had won him sovereignty, and he recog- 
nised that it must be kept by the same means ; so he gathered 
together an army of eighty thousand men and set off to conquer 

Lappetit vient en mangeant. India lay just over the barrier 
of the Koh-i-Suleiman hills, and the tribes who had hitherto 
been subsidised by the Moghul Government to keep the peaks 
and passes, were now sulky over their failure for some years past 
to squeeze anything out of the bankrupt Government of Delhi. 

But even Nadir required some excuse for bald, brutal invasion. 
He therefore peremptorily demanded the expulsion of some 
Afghans who had fled from punishment to shelter in Indian 
territory. At all times it would have been difficult to lay hands 
on a band of wandering Pathans amongst the frontier hills, but 
Delhi was at this time distracted by fear of the Mahrattas, and 
still all uncertain whether to acknowledge Nadir-Shah's claim* 
to kingship. 

The hesitation suited the latter ; he was over the border, had 
defeated a feeble resistance at Lah6re, and was within ioo miles 
of Delhi before he found himself faced by a real army. 

There must surely be some malignant attraction about the 
wide plain of Paniput ! Surely the Angel-of-Death must spread 
his wings over it at all times, since bitter battle has been fought 
on it again and again, and its sun-saturated sands have been 
sodden again and again with the blood of many men. 

How many times has the fate of India been decided amongst 
its semi-barren stretches, where the low dhdk bushes glow like 
sunset clouds on the horizon? First by the mythical, legendary 
Pindus and Kurus, backed by the gods, protected by showers 
of celestial arrows. Next, when Shah&b-ud-din-Mahomed Ghori 
broke down the Rajput resistance, and Prithvi-raj, the flower of 
Rajput chivalry, was killed flying for his life amongst the sugar- 
cane brakes. Timur passed it by, but his great descendant Babar 
strewed the plain with dead in his victorious march to Delhi. 
Here Hemu met with crushing defeat at Akbar's hands, and 
now Nadir was to carry on the tradition of death, until that last 


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The Invasion of Nddir 243 

great fight in 1761, which ended the Mahratta power, and so paved 
the way for British supremacy. 

How many men's dust is mingled with the soil of Paniput ? All 
we know is that the life-blood of over a million is said to have 
been spilt upon it. 

Nadir's battle, however, appears to have been a comparatively 
bloodless rout of an absolutely incapable enemy. Mahomed-Shah, 
the so-called emperor of all the Indies, at any rate gave up the 
struggle incontinently, sent in his submission, and the two kings 
journeyed peacefully together to Delhi, which they reached in 
March 1739. Did the populace come out to greet the sovereigns 
riding in, brother-like, hand in hand, to take up their residence 
in the palace built by Shahjahan? It is a quaint picture this, of 
cringing submission and reckless ascendency. 

To Nadir's credit be it said that, whatever ultimate object of 
plunder he may have had, he wished to avoid bloodshed. For 
this purpose he stationed isolated pickets of chosen troops about 
the city and suburbs to keep order and protect the people. 
Unavailingly, for a strange thing happened. Whether owing to 
some deep-laid, well-known plan for poisoning the intruder which 
failed unexpectedly, or from some other cause, the report was spread 
abroad within forty-eight hours that Nadir-the-Conqueror, Nadir- 
the-mainspring-of-Conquest, was dead. The rumours blazed like 
wildfire through the bazaars. In quick impulse the mob fell on 
the pickets, and seven hundred Persians were weltering in their 
blood when Nadir himself rode through the midnight streets, 
intent, they say, on peace. But the provocation proved too much 
for his cold, cruelPersian temper. 

Struck by stones and mud hurled at him from the houses, the 
officer next him killed by a bullet aimed at himself, he gave way to 
Berserk rage. It was just dawn when the massacre he ordered 
began ; it was nigh sunset when it ended, and night fell over one 
hundred and fifty thousand dead corpses. Nor did his revenge 
stop here. The treasure, which he would no doubt have extorted 
in any case, was now seized on by force, torture and murder 
being used to make the miserable inhabitants yield up every 
penny. Every kind of cruelty was employed in this extortion ; 
numbers died from ill-usage, and many others destroyed them- 
selves from fear of a disgraceful death. As an eye-witness writes : 
"Sleep and rest forsook the city. In every chamber and house 
was heard the cry of affliction." 


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244 The Modern Age 

The Afghan has always possessed a perfect genius for pillage, 
and after a short two months N&dir-Shali left Delhi, carrying away 
with him an almost incredible quantity of plunder, which it is very 
generally estimated at being worth .£30,000,000; an enormous 
sum, but it must be remembered that the famous peacock throne 
in itself was counted by Tavernier as equal to ^6,000,000 sterling. 

But Nadir left Delhi something which, possibly, it might have 
done better without ; for ere leaving, he solemnly reinstated the 
puppet-king, and swore fearful oaths as to the revenge he would 
take on the nobles when he returned in a year or two should they 
fail in allegiance. But he never did return ; he really never meant 
to return. He was a robber pur et simple^ and he had got all that 
he had any hopes of getting. 

So he disappeared northwards again, to die a violent death ere 
long. For despite his success, something of remorse had come 
to him, uninvited, with the spoils of ravaged Delhi. He became 
cruel, capricious, tyrannical ; finally, he grew half-mad, until one 
night the nobles, whose arrest he had decreed, the captain of his 
own body-guard, the very chief of his own clan, entered his tent 
at midnight. Then from the darkness came the challenge in the 
deep voice which had so often led them to victory. 

"Who goes there?" 

For an instant they drew back, uncertain ; but only for an instant. 
They went for him with their sabres as they might have gone at a 
mad dog, and Nadir, their hero, their pride, their tyrant, their 
horror, ended his life. 

How had he affected India? 

First of all it had for the moment checked Mahratta aggrandise- 
ment. The appearance of this unknown, hitherto almost unheard- 
of foe, who traversed with such ease the country he had hoped to 
annex, and did the things he had meant to do, seemed to paralyse 
Baji-Rao. His first impulse was to aid in a general defence of 
India. "Our domestic quarrels, ,, he wrote, "are now insigni- 
ficant ; there is but one enemy in Hindustan. The whole power 
of the Dekkan, Hindu and Mahomedan alike, must assemble for 

And even when Nadir-Shah had retreated without further pro- 
gress southward, Baji-Rao, free-booter, as all the Mahrattas were 
at heart, must have felt himself frustrated. What use was there 
in reaching a city desolate utterly, still infected by the stench 
of unburied bodies ; a city whose treasury doors stood wide open, 


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The Invasion of Nadir 245 

fimpty, deserted; a city, briefly, which an Afghan had pillaged? 
So he and his Saho retired southwards. 

As for the effects which Nadir's sudden swoop on the interior 
of the plum-cake had on the nibbling mice upon its circumference^ 
there is little to be said* It must have been a surprise to the 
civilised communities which were so rapidly coming into existence 
at such centres as Calcutta, Madras, Bombay ; centres in which 
life went elegantly, and people began to talk of the latest news 
by mail from England. Still, the mere brute-force of the invasion 
cannot have shocked them much, for Europe itself was a prey 
at this time to wars and rumours of wars. The 171 5 rebellion 
was over in England ; the 1745 had not yet begun. In France 
affairs were working up towards the Revolution. Spain and 
Germany were alike, either at the beginning or the end of 
disastrous struggles. 

Yet the mere fact which must have filtered through to the sea- 
coast — that thirty millions worth of solid plunder had just been 
filched away from the treasury of India by foreigners — cannot have 
been pleasing news. The East India Company, however, seems 
to have made no great efforts at aggrandisement during the years 
between the special granting to it of lands by Farokhshir and 
1746, when it formally entered into grips with the French East 
Indian Company, which about this time began that dispute for 
supremacy in India which virtually ended with the taking of 
Trichinoply in 1761. 

In truth we have very little information indeed regarding the 
doings of John Company during this period. All we know is 
that British imports into India fell from ,£617,000 in 1724 to 
£157,000 in 1 74 1, which, taken with, a corresponding decrease 
in dividends, would seem to show some depression, some check 
to trade. 

One thing is certain. The Constitution of the Company was 
not satisfactory. An attempt had been made to avoid a monopoly 
of large shareholders by ruling that, no matter what the share 
held might be, it should only, whether ^500 or ^50,000, carry 
one vote for the election of the Court of Directors. But this 
ruling could be, and was, easily evaded. All that had to be done 
was to split the £50,000 into a hundred ,£500 shares, registered 
in the names of confidential agents, who — in consideration of an 
honorarium, no doubt — voted according to direction. It was not 
very straightforward, of course ; on the other hand, the original 


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246 The Modern Age 

ruling was silly in the extreme, since it prevented those who had 
a real interest in the Company from exercising their due share 
of influence. 

Unfortunately, this faggot-voting brought with it a corrupt 
atmosphere. Appointments under the Company were a common 
bribe, and as the Court of Directors had to be reappointed every 
year, there was endless opportunity for jobbery. 

So, after a time, opposition to the monopoly of the trade 
began once more to take form. Proposals for yet a new company 
were floated. Parliament once more took up the matter ; which 
was finally settled by the existing company offering ,£200,000 to 
Government, and a reduction of 1 per cent, on the rate of interest 
payable on the previous loan of some three-and-a-half millions 
(that is to say, a yearly income of £35,000), as payment for the 
extension of their monopoly till 1766. This offer was accepted, 
and in 1744 the term of monopoly was still further extended until 
1780, in consideration of a further loan to Government of 
£1,000,000 sterling at the low rate of 3 per cent. Coming as it 
did in the middle of a very expensive war, the temptation of this 
pecuniary assistance must have been potent ; but there can be but 
little doubt that, publicly at any rate, the trade of India suffered 
considerably from the exclusion of private enterprise. 

Certain it is that while the English East India Company found 
themselves forced to reduce their dividends to 7 per cent, the 
Dutch Company was dividing 25. 

Altogether, then, it is not surprising that, until the French, by 
assuming the aggressive, forced the East India Company to bestir 
itself, it did nothing of importance in the way of progress. 


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A.D. I742 TO A.D. 1748 

The eye of France had been on India for a century and a half, 
for it was in i6qi that a fleet of French merchant ships set out 
from St Malo for Hindustan, but failed of their destination. 

The first French East India Company was formed in 1604, the 
second in 161 1, a third in 161 5 ; a fourth was founded by Cardinal 
Richelieu in 1642, yet a fifth in 1664, and finally a sixth, made 
up by the co-ordination of various older ventures, began in 17 19 
to trade under the name of " Compagnies des Indes." 

There was thus no lack of organisation ; of action, there had 
been, up to 1742, comparatively little. They had secured a factory 
at Surat, they captured Trincomalee from tjie Dutch, and they 
had occupied Pondicherry, which they still hold. Aurungzebe 
had ceded Chandanagore to them, and they had also obtained 
Mahe' and Karikal, which they bought from the Rajah of Tanjore. 

This, then, was the position of France in India when, in the 
year 1742, the office of Governor was bestowed on one Joseph 
Dupleix. He had spent his life in India, had amassed a 
huge private fortune by private trade, but at the same time had 
done his duty by the company of which his father had been a 

He was thus saturated, as it were, with the methods and manners 
of the East, and in addition he had the advantage of a clever 
wife, who, though European by birth, had been born and bred 
in India. 

Incited, it is believed, by her, he evolved a plan by which he 
hoped to gain supremacy for France. Competition in fair trade 
with both the English and the Dutch had failed, but he hoped 
to gain that by diplomacy which had been denied by commerce. 



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248 The Modern Age 

The Moghul dynasty was tottering to its fall. On all sides the 
petty governors of provinces were aspiring to feeble power, and 
the balance of parties was often so nearly equal, that a very 
little support thrown into the scale would determine failure or 
success. Here Dupleix saw his opportunity, and he set deliber- 
ately to work, using Madame Dupleix as his go-between, to make 
friends for France in this welter of conflicting interests. The 
work was going on secretly and surely, when in 1744 the war 
of the Austrian Succession broke out in Europe between England 
and France. 

Dupleix was evidently unwilling that this secret work of his 
should be interrupted by any outbreak of hostilities in the East, 
and some little time previous to the open declaration of war, both 
the French and English Companies had taken steps to provide 
for peace at any price. But a new factor had arisen on the 
French side in the person of Admiral Labourdonnais, the Governor 
of the Isle of France and the Isle of Bourbon. 

His had been an adventurous life, and he had often been in 
and out of favour with those who had employed him. His govern- 
ment of the two contiguous islands was a case in point He had 
ound a plentiful crop of abuses, he had rooted them out, and in 
consequence of this, when he returned on private affairs to France, 
was pursued with unscrupulous enmity and bitter detraction. 

In endeavouring to right himself he gave to the Ministers of 
State and the directors of his Company a full exposition of his 
views on the Eastern question. It commended itself to the 
authorities, and he found himself setting sail for the Isle of France 
in April 1741, backed by a fleet which, with care and training, should 
be able to secure to his country supremacy in the Eastern seas. 

But disappointment awaited him. Long before the declaration 
of war which he expected, the French Company, who thought 
it had been made to bear more than its fair share of the cost 
of fitting out the fleet, sent for their ships, and Labourdonnais 
was left at a disadvantage. A British squadron was now cruising 
about the Bay of Bengal, taking the place which he had hoped 
to fill, and making many French prizes. But he was not a man 
of discouragements, and the situation having been saved on the 
Coromandel Coast by the diplomacy of Dupleix, who induced 
the Nawab of Arcot to claim Pondicherry as his territory and 
so save it from occupation by the English, he managed somehow 
to scrape together sufficient ships and men to try conclusions. 


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The Game of French and English 249 

Fortune played a stroke in his favour by the inopportune death 
of the English captain, by which the command devolved on one 
who erred on the side of prudence, and who, after the two 
squadrons had been engaged at long distances until nightfall 
off the coast, thought it wiser to cut and run under cover of 
darkness, in consequence of a leak springing in one of his largest 

Labourdonnais, who had suffered far more, and who, in truth, 
had been anxiously cogitating his best move during the night, thus 
found himself, as the grey dawn showed an empty sea, a complete 
victor, and full of relief and pride set sail for Pondicherry. But 
here a cool reception awaited him, for Dupleix had no notion of 
having his aims achieved by any one but himself. So the com- 
mander by land and the commander by sea were mutually 
obstructive, and continued to be so ; a course which eventually 
ruined both, destroyed French hopes in India, and for the present 
saved those of England from almost certain annihilation. 

For the British squadron was nowhere. After a month of 
shelter in the harbour of Trincomalee, it reappeared, only to 
disappear once more. 

Labourdonnais therefore put back to Pondicherry, and prepared 
seriously to take Madras ; which he did, without the least trouble, 
in September 1746. It was, in truth, incapable of defence. 

The French admiral brought eleven ships, two thousand nine 
hundred European soldiery, eight hundred natives, and adequate 
artillery against a small fort manned by two hundred men. For 
the Black Town and the White Town, together with the contiguous 
five miles of sea-coast, in which were gathered over two hundred 
and fifty thousand souls, lay absolutely unprotected, at the mercy 
of all and sundry. 

It is said that the English relied for security on the Nawab of 
Arcot, who had promised to claim Madras as he had claimed 
Pondicherry ; but, doubtless, Dupleix had been beforehand with 

This much it is pleasant to record, that the siege, which lasted 
no less than seven days, was the most bloodless on record. The 
death-roll was only one Frenchman and five English. 

The terms of capitulation were severe. All goods,' stores, 
merchandise, etc., passed to France ; all English were prisoners- 
of-war. A ransom was suggested, but Labourdonnais, while 
intimating that he was prepared to receive the proposal reason- 


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250 The Modern Age 

ably, stipulated for previous surrender. Indeed, throughout the 
whole affair he appears to have behaved honourably and liber- 
ally. Not so Dupleix, who, when the subsequent negotiations had 
commenced, roughly interfered, denied the power of Labourdonnais 
to dictate terms, claimed Madras as standing in his territory, and 
generally brought about a dead-lock, during which three more 
French ships-of-war, with over one thousand three hundred men 
on board, arrived at Pondicherry. 

With this addition to his fleet Labourdonnais could have swept 
the seas, and -Calcutta and Bombay must have shared the fate of 
Madras ; but — alas, for France ! — her sons were quarrelling 
amongst themselves. 

And l>efore they could settle their differences the weather 
intervened. Truly, Great Britain scores something of tenderness 
from the breezes that blow, by being " set in the steely seas," in 
the path of the north and the west and the east and the south 
winds ! They saved her once from the Spanish Armada, and 
now the monsoon rolled up along the coast of Coromandel, and 
broke in the Madras roads, foundered a French ship of the line, 
and drove five others dismasted, disabled, out to sea. 

It was a crushing blow, one from which France never recovered, 
and by which poor Labourdonnais, who had consented to be tied 
by the leg simply from a sense of honour, a determination to stand 
by his word at all hazards, met with early and disappointed death ; 
for the French Government, filled up with the able lies of Dupleix, 
sent him to the Bastille, where he lingered for three years, dying 
soon after his contemptuous and unsympathetic release of poverty 
and a broken heart. 

Dupleix, however, flourished like the proverbial green bay tree. 
He repudiated ransoms and restorations alike, and seemed likely 
to remain in possession, when the Nawib of Arcot intervened, 
asserting — and no doubt with truth — that the French governor, 
in order to prevent aid being sent to the English, had promised to 
make over Madras to him as a reward for quiescence. The inter- 
vention was followed by an undisciplined army of ten thousand 
men. And here, however much the character of Dupleix may 
arouse dislike, credit must be given to him for shqwing indubitably 
the inherent strength of his claim, that European methods should 
be the weightiest factor in Eastern politics. He met this horde 
of ten thousand with a body of four hundred half-disciplined native 
troops — barely half-disciplined — and he literally wiped his enemy 


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The Game of French and English 251 

out. Henceforward a new element entered into the Eastern 
problem, for it was abundantly demonstrated that to conquer India 
it was not necessary to import a whole army. There was that of 
valour, that of sheer soldiership, amongst the natives themselves, 
to make them, when properly led, the finest troops in the world. 
It is hardly too much to say that India practically changed rulers 
in 1746, when the Nawab of Arcot was repulsed from Madras. 

Out of -this repulse (necessary in order to enable Dupleix — 
despite the promise without which Labourdonnais had refused to 
budge — to carry through his treacherous intention of*repudiating 
the negotiations, refusing ransom, and holding Madras for the 
French) arose much. The Nawab, disgusted, broke with Dupleix 
and assisted the English at Fort St David, a smaller factory 
some miles further down the coast.* Here the appearance of 
the undisciplined troops just as the French, imagining themselves 
secure of victory, were refreshing themselves in a garden, produced 
such a scare that the victors were across the river again, and on 
their way back to Pondicherry before they could be rallied. 

Dupleix, greatly enraged at his failure, and knowing to a nicety 
how to deal with natives, now commenced to make the Nawib of 
Arcot's life a burden to him by reason of petty raids, until, wearied 
out, he once more threw the weight of his support into the French 

It cannot have been a clean business; it certainly was not 
an edifying spectacle to see two civilised European communities 
vieing with one another in their efforts to secure an Orential 
potentate, but this much may be said in English extenuation — 
the French began it. 

The case of the English along the Coast of Coromandel now 
seemed quite desperate. They had lost their only ally, and 
though an attack by boat on Cuddalore had been repulsed— once 
more by the aid of Neptune, who always seems favourable to 
Britain, and who on this occasion swamped half the enemy in 
the Coromandel Coast, and sent them dripping, half-drowned, with 
wet powder and soaked magazines, back to sea — they could not 
hope to avert the renewed assault on Fort St David, which took 
place in 1747. 

But this game of French and English was a series of surprises, 
a perfect melodrama of dramatic coincidences ; for no sooner 
were the French once more comfortably ensconced in the old 
garden than— Hey presto !— sails appeared to sea-ward, and in less 


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252 The Modern Ag€ 

than no time — hardly long enough for Monsieur's hurried escape — 
there was a British fleet at anchor in the roads ! 

It reads like some tale of adventure in which a " God-out-of-a- 
machine" always appears in the nick of time to save the hero. 
But so it was, though it must be confessed that beyond a display 
of force majeure the British fleet did nothing. In truth a more 
incapable fleet never floated. It seems to have spent a whole 
year in sailing about the Bay of Bengal looking for the French 
fleet, and when it caught a glimpse of the enemy, promptly 
changing its rSle from hound to hare, and running away itself. 

Meanwhile, on land one Major Lawrence — this is the first time 
that this honoured name appears over the horizon of Indian 
history — a distinguished King's officer, had come out to take over 
charge of the Company's forces. At first he certainly distinguished 
himself, for he began by discovering a deep-laid plot, in which 
Madame Dupleix was prime mover, to tamper with the fidelity of 
the few hundred sepoys which the English, following the example 
of the French, were bringing into discipline. Banishment and 
death having disposed of this conspiracy, Admiral Griffin and the 
British fleet were given a chance of more honourable warfare ; 
but, unfortunately, at the time the French vessels showed close 
in to the coast the admiral and all his officers happened to 
be ashore enjoying themselves, and so once more honest battle 
degenerated into the looking for a needle in a bundle of hay ; 
in the midst of which the French vessels achieved their object 
of landing ^200,000 in specie, and four hundred soldiers at 

Major Lawrence, however, almost neutralised this failure by a 
clever repulse of the French at Cuddalore, which lay but 3 miles 
north of Fort St David. Hearing that a large force was advancing, 
he ordered all the guns and stores from Cuddalore to be dismantled 
and taken in to the former fort. Native spies, naturally, brought 
the news of this to the enemy, who consequently advanced care- 
lessly, applied their scaling ladders to the walls, and were sur- 
prised by perfect platoons of musketry and a shower of grape. 
The guns removed by day had been restored by night, and the 
garrison largely reinforced. The result was headlong flight. 

Once again it reads like a shilling shocker; one is tempted* 
almost, to take the whole story as the figment of a super-excited 

All this time neither France nor England had — and small 


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The Game of French and English 253 

wonder — taken this game of French and English on the Coro- 
mandel Coast at all seriously; but at long last, in 1748, both the 
Government and the Company of the latter woke up to the 
necessity for doing something. The result being such a fleet as 
no Western nation had hitherto put into Eastern waters. Thirty 
ships in all, thirteen of them being ships of the line, and none of 
them less than 500 tons burden. 

With these, close on four thousand European troops, three 
hundred Africans, two thousand half-disciplined sepoys, and the 
support of the Naw&b of Arcot (who had once more changed 
sides), Fort St David rightly felt itself strong enough, not only 
to recover Madras, but also to take Pondicherry. 

But here, alas ! begins one of the most fateful tales of sheer 
ineptitude to be found in the whole history of English warfare. 
Delay, crass ignorance, useless persistence, and exaggerated im- 
portance, marked the preliminary siege of Arrian-aupan, a small 
fort which might with ease have been left alone. For the season 
was already far advanced, and the object at which it was all- 
important to strike was, palpably, Pondicherry. 

September, however, had well begun ere the attacking force 
found itself within 1,500 yards of the town, and instantly started, 
with unheard-of caution, to throw up parallels. Wherefore, save 
from ignorance, God knows, since in those days 880 yards was the 
limit for such diggings. On they laboured with praiseworthy per- 
sistence until, after a month's work, they reached the point at 
which they ought to have begun, and found that their toil was 
useless ! Between them and the city lay an impassable morass. 

The British fleet, meanwhile, getting as near to their range as 
strong flanking batteries manned with over a hundred guns would 
allow, had been pounding away quite uselessly at fair Pondicherry, 
which lay smiling and peaceful, immaculate as any virgin town 
behind the white line of surf. 

What was now to be done ? To begin again was hopeless, to 
persist useless, so after losing over one-third of its European force 
from sickness, and expending Heaven only knows how many 
rounds of ammunition, England retired, having inflicted on France 
the loss by the fire of her ships of one old Mahomedan woman, 
who was killed by a spent shot in the street, and by sickness and 
other casualties some two hundred soldiers. 

No wonder Dupleix sang " Te Deums " until he was hoarse ! 
No wonder he wrote bombastic, boastful, letters round to every 


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254 The Modern Age 

Nawab and Rajah, including the Great Moghul, proclaiming that 
the French were the fighters, and that those who were wise would 
side with them. 

There can be no doubt whatever that this pantomimic siege of 
Pondicherry lost the English prestige, which it took many years 
of subsequent victories to regain. 

For by the irony of fate, no immediate opportunity of revenge 
for reparation of their honour was given them. 

The Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle terminated the long war between 
France and England, and one of the provisions of that treaty was 
the restoration to each power of all possessions taken during the 

Madras, therefore, was formally receded to England, and the 
combatants on the Coromandel Coast were left eyeing one another, 
looking for some new cause of conflict. 

But the game of French and English was over. 


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A.D. 1748 TO A.D. 1751 

When the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle ended open warfare between 
the French and the English, both naturally turned their eyes more 
keenly upon India. 

What they saw there was stimulating to those who felt within 
themselves the power of conquest. On all sides were petty wars 
and rumours of wars. The horrors of Nadir- Shah's invasion were 
being forgotten, but the country was not coming back to its 
pristine quiet There was a strange new factor in India now : the 
factor of a new knowledge of alien races, by whom it was possible 
to be helped, or who could in their turn give help. 

But this, still, was only about and a little beyond the sea-board. 
Up-country matters went on much as ever. Mahomed - Shah's 
majesty crept out of its hiding-place again, and made shift with a 
pinchbeck peacock throne, a pretence of power. 

Baji-cum-Salio, the Mahratta, however, almost ere he recovered 
from his alarm at the Persian hordes, had died, leaving his son, 
Bala-ji, as Peishwa in his stead ; leaving him also some very 
pretty quarrels to settle. One with the semi-pirates of Angria, 
which, involving the Portuguese, ended in the latter being ousted 
from India in 1739 by the Mahrattas, who, however, admitted to 
the loss of five thousand men in the siege of Bassein alone. 

But Bila-ji was a strong man, fully equal to the position in 
which he found himself; and after driving his most formidable . 
private enemy and claimant to the Prime Ministership, R&ghu-ji, 
back to his task of besieging Trichinopoly, he turned his attention 
to aggression. He began by renewing the long-deferred claim on 
the court at Delhi, and was granted it, on condition that he aided 
the Governor Ali- Verdi- Khan to repulse the invasion of Righu-ji ; 
who, having succeeded in his siege , had made an independent 



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256 The Modern Age 

raid into Bengal. This opportunity of killing two birds with one 
stone was naturally welcome to Bala-ji, who drove out the intruders 
without difficulty, and received his reward. 

But, so far as Bengal was concerned, it was merely a postpone- 
ment of an evil day, for Raghu-ji returned to his prey, and finally 
obtained the cession of a large part of Orissa, and a tribute from 
Bengal itself. 

Thus in 1748 the only ascending power was that of the 
Mahrattas. On all other sides France and England were spec- 
tators of a general scramble for territory, a general assertion of 
independence on the part of petty chiefs. 

And the question naturally came swiftly — "Why should we 
remain inactive? Why should we not extend our sphere of 
influence by giving, perhaps even sellings our aid?" 

The question had already been answered by France. Dupleix 
had dipped deep into Indian politics, and, by so doing, had 
undoubtedly strengthened the position of the French. The 
temptation to follow suit was almost overwhelming, and so in 1749 
England drew the sword which was impatiently resting in its 
scabbard, and became a mercenary in the pay of one Sahu-ji 
who claimed the Rajahship of Tanjore. The ostensible bribe 
offered was an unimportant fort of Devi-kottah, and a slip of 
country along the coast. The real cause of the coalition being 
the fact that the large English army, brought eastward during the 
late war, was eating its head off in idleness. 

The whole affair of the Tanjore succession was absolutely trivial, 
yet almost too complicated for abbreviated detail. It is sufficient 
to say that one Pratap Singh had reigned for years, that England 
had recognised him, negotiated with him, and courted his assist- 
ance against the French. I 

Policy, however, changes with the times, and it was now thought 
advisable, without any further provocation, to assist in dethroning 
him ! No doubt there were excellent reasons for this volte face, 
only at the present they are not in evidence. 

This first venture on mercenary lines was not a brilliant passage 
in the history of British arms. In truth, England in the East did 
not at that time possess any man fit to carry on similar work to 
that which Dupleix was doing for France ; for Lieutenant Clive, 
though he had given proof of high courage during the pantomimic 
siege of Pondicherry, had not yet raised his head above those of 
his compeers. Indeed, but for a chance he might never have so 


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Plots and Counterplots 257 

raised it, since at the taking of Devi-kottah he narrowly escaped 
death ; being one of the four survivors in a rash attempt to cross 
the river Kolarun on a raft. 

So this Tanjore campaign, which began in a tempest * that killed 
all the baggage-animals and severely crippled the whole force* 
ended ignominiously in another volte face. For, finding their 
protigi^ Sahu-ji, had no local support lor his claim, the English 
forces, on condition of his receiving a pension of four thousand 
rupees, re-transferred their friendship to the original King Pratap, 
who, however, was made to ratify the bribes promised by the 
pretender, and also to pay the cost of the war ! The latter being 
certainly a seething of the kid in its mother's milk. 

Meanwhile, France had been busy with more important matters. 

To understand what was happening, it is necessary to go back 
to old Asaf-Jah, who had begun his career under Aurungzebe, and 
who only died in 1748 at the extraordinary age of one hundred and 

A cunning old fox, brave to the death after the manner of foxes 
when in a tight place, he had, under the title of Nizam-ul-mulk — 
a title still held by the rulers of the Dekkan— kept his grip on that 
country in almost absolute independence of Delhi. 

Now, at his death, innumerable points cropped up for settlement. 
The Carnatic was a fief of the Dekkan, and in the Carnatic were 
two semi-independent kingdoms, Tanjore and Trichinopoly. The 
successions of all these were disputed, especially that of the 
Carnatic, which was held by that very Nawab of Arcot who had 
bandied about his allegiance between the French and English. A 
most immoral proceeding, no doubt, but at a time when civilised 
and Christian men were palpably only playing for their own hand, 
it is not to be wondered at if less cultivated, more pagan peoples 
followed suit. There seems, anyhow, no reason — except the advan- 
tage to be gained from having a real creature — why Dupleix should 
have thrown him over and supported the claims of Chanda-Sahib. 
But he did ; chiefly because Chanda-Sahib, the only member of 
a former ruler's family who had sufficient talent for the rise in 
fortune, had been brought up in the refuge of Pondicherry, and 
promised important concessions should he succeed. This decision 
on the part of Dupleix put the English in a quandary. They could 
not sit still and see France succeed, and yet the chances of 

1 It was in this storm that the admiral's ship, Namur, went down, with seven 
hundred and fifty men. 



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258 The Modern Age 

success on the other side were small. So they temporised by 
sending one hundred and twenty Europeans to help Trichinopoly, 
by which, of course, they committed themselves as much as if they 
had sent twelve hundred. 

They themselves, however, did not seem to think so, for in spite 
of this absolute challenge to France they refused the English 
admiral's offer to remain in Eastern waters. So suicidal did this 
appear to Dupleix that for some time he treated the departure 
as a mere feint. 

So both parties settled down with their " legitimate heir," neither 
caring one straw for the justice of the claim, since both were 
equally bad. 

Whatever else may be said, this much is certain, that ftatprottgi 
of the French was a better puppet than the protigi of the English. 
Furthermore, he drew into the French net no less a person than 
Muzaffar-Jung, a grandson of old Asaf-Jah, who was a claimant 
for the Dekkan. Truly, therefore, with a Nizam of the Dekkan, 
and a Nawab of the Carnatic, both owing their thrones to French 
interference, Dupleix had a right to expect much for his country. 

Their interference, also, was successful. There was a pitched 
battle close to Arcot, at which the Nawib was killed (at the most 
.unusual age of one hundred and seven), and only one of his son.s 
escaped with the wreck of his army to Trichinopoly. 

Dupleix, it is said, urged the allies to press on after him, but the 
Oriental mind, as a rule, is satisfied with the present. Chanda- 
Sihib and Muzaffar-Jung amused themselves with playing the 
parts of Nizam and Nawab to their hearts' content, and spending 
themselves and their resources in luxurious pleasures, until the 
rightful claimant of the former rdle appeared on the horizon with 
an army composed largely of mercenary Mahrattas. A big army, 
a good army ; Dupleix saw victory in it, and he instantly began 
with his usual unscrupulous diplomacy to attempt negotiations. 

In this, however, for once, the English were beforehand with 
him. They had, as we know, moved by vague fear of the grow- 
ing French ascendency, sent a few men to support Trichinopoly 
against possible attacks from Chanda-Sahib-cum-Muzaffar-Jung, 
and now, taking heart of grace, Major Lawrence and four hundred 
troops joined the camp of the rightful Nizam. 

The two armies, that of N&sir-Jung backed — in truth but feebly 
— by the English, and that of Chanda-Sihib-cum-Muzaffar-Jung 
backed by the cunning of a man versed in all the tortuosities of 


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Plots and Counterplots 2^9 

Indian policy, were now in touch with each other, but they did 
not come into action. 

Thirteen of the French officers resigned their commissions the 
day before the battle ; the disaffection — due to some failure to 
divide spoils — spread to the men, and their commander, Monsieur 
d'Auteuil, feeling it unwise in the circumstances to venture any- 
thing, took veritable French leave during the night, followed by 
Chanda-Sihib. Muzaflfar-Jung, thus left in despair, seized the bull 
by the horns and surrendered himself to the rightful heir, who 
was in truth his uncle. There is an element of the comic opera 
in all these incidents which almost preclude their being taken 

But here we have an impasse. At Pondicherry all was con- 
fusion, and Dupleix driven to despair because his cock would 
not fight. At Arcot, Major Lawrence trying through an inter- 
preter to warn his cock, the triumphant Nizam, against froggy 
Frenchmen, and seeking to get the reward promised for the 
loan of the now useless British soldiery. 

In both of which. attempts he failed. In the first, because the 
politeness of Oriental -manners refused bald translation of the 
, Englishman's home truths. In the second, because wily Oriental 
astuteness suggested that services having been bought must be 
given before being paid for, and that Major Lawrence had better 
serve out his time — if as nothing else — as a boon companion ! 

This suggestion was refused, and "after speaking his mind 
freely" (through the polite interpreter!), the English commander 
and his troops went back in dudgeon to Fort St David. 

It took the French less time than it did the English to recover 
from this fiasco. Dupleix, indeed, was once more deep in diplomacy 
ere Major Lawrence had made up his mind whether to intrigue 
or fight. 

His decision came too late for success, his indecision too early ; 
for having offered English support for the retaking of the Pagoda 
of Trividi, a strongly fortified place but 15 miles west of Fort 
St David, he withdrew it when an advance of pay was refused. 
Whereupon the French stepped in — the misunderstanding was 
in all probability the result of their machinations — and added to 
their acquisitions by taking the celebrated fort of Jingi, which, 
situated on a vast isolated mountain of a rock, had been considered 

It was an exploit of which to be proud, and it is said that 


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260 The Modern Age 

after fully realising its natural strength the French force was lost 
in wonder as to bow it had managed to take it 1 

It was an exploit, also, which roused the Nizam N&sir-Jung 
from his dream of luxurious pleasures. A nation which could 
take Jingi was evidently the nation with whom to make terms. 
He therefore offered to negotiate. Dupleix made extravagant 
demands, and so lured the Niz&m to take the field, for the wily 
diplomatist was aware that conspiracy was rife amongst the 
Nizam's supporters, and hoped by getting in touch with them to 
rid himself more effectually of a troublesome opponent than by 
entering into terms with him. 

It took fifteen days for the un wieldly army, 300,000 strong — 
60,000 foot, 45,000 cavalry, 700 elephants, 360 pieces of artillery, 
the rest being camp followers — to march 30 miles. 

Then it was stopped by the bursting of the monsoon. And 
so, with his enemy blocked hopelessly within 15 miles of him, 
treachery became possible to the Frenchman. And black treachery 
it was ! To be brief, Dupleix negotiated with the conspirators, 
and also with the Nizam ; so, finding himself finally in a dilemma 
as to which side to choose, took the opportunity of a delay in 
sending back a ratified treaty with the latter, to order the whole 
French force to attack. 

The miserable Nizam at first refused to believe it possible that 
those with whom but the day before he had signed a treaty of 
peace should take arms against him ; refused to believe it possible 
that disloyalty was the cause of half his camp standing sullen 
spectators of the fray. He mounted his elephant and rode straight 
to rouse them. It being early dawn, he feared lest he might 
not be recognised, and rose in his howdah in order to give a 
clearer view of his person. 

Too clear, for he fell in an instant, pierced through the heart 
by two bullets fired by one of his favourites. 

Muzaffar-Jung, thus set free once more, resumed the Nizamship 
of the Dekkan, and all went merry as a marriage bel). Both he, 
Ihe Pathan nobles who had formed the bulk of the conspirators, 
and Dupleix, had their share of the two and a half millions of 
treasure said to have been taken from Nasir-Jung ; and much of 
it was spent in various elaborate festivities, notably in the official 
installation of Muzaffar ; he, in his turn, nominating Dupleix as 
official Governor for the Great Moghul in all countries south of 
the Kistna. All the revenues of these countries were to pass 


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Plots and Counterplots 261 

through him, and no coins save those minted by the French 
at Pondicherry were to be current coin of the realm. 

It was a tremendous victory for France. The English, who 
had hitherto been fairly content to exist in India on sufferance, 
heard their enemy's boast, that ere long the Moghul himself would 
tremble at the name of Dupleix, with absolute stupefaction. So 
stunned were they that they did not even object to the commander 
of their forces choosing this most inopportune moment to return 
on leave to England. 

Fortunately, however, for them, thieves are apt to fall out. The 
Pathan nobles, discontented with their share of the plunder, once 
more, became conspirators, with the result that Muzaffar-Jung, 
the creature of the French, was killed. 

Fortunately, also, for the honour of England, a man called Robert 
Clive had been born in Shropshire six-and-twenty years before, 
and after several years of uncongenial employment as a clerk, 
had in 1747 received an ensign's commission, from which he had 
risen in 1751 to the rank of Captain. 

And now, when the power of the French was in its zenith, he 
appeared, young, arrogant, determined to try a sword's conclusions 
with that past-master of diplomacy, Dupleix. 

But before we pass on to the most honourable, the most exciting 
chapter in the history of British India, a look round must be given 
to see what had been going on in the far-away north, which lay 
almost out of touch with Trichinopoly, Arcot, Pondicherry, Madras, 
the Carnatic, Jingi, Masulipatam, all those places on which the 
fingers of France and England had been laid more or less 

Mahomed-Sh&h had died after having successfully resisted the 
invasion of the Durrani or Afghan prince, Ahmed- Khan, who, fired 
by Nadir-Shah's example, tried in 1748 to imitate his exploit. He 
was badly beaten at Sirhind, close to the old battlefield of Panipat. 
Before this Ali- Verdi- Khan, Governor of Bengal, had revolted, and 
become independent ; but in his turn had suffered reverse at the 
hands of the Mahrattas, and had to yield up the province of Orissa. 

The latter race had been much exercised over the succession to 
the throne, for the puppet Saho, who, combined first with Baji-rao 
and afterwards with Bala-ji, had exercised sovereignty for so long, 
had no children. The right of adoption, therefore, was his, and, 
his wife's influence being paramount on personal points, he was 
inclined to choose the Rajah of Kolapur* This, however, did 


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262 The Modern Age 

not suit Bala-ji. He therefore induced the old queen, Tara-Bhai, 
to trump up a tale of a posthumous son of her son, whose birth 
had been concealed from fear of danger to the child. Saho, 
almost imbecile by this time, was deluded into believing the tale 
of a collateral heir, and ere dying, secretly signed an instrument 
giving the regency to Bala-ji, on condition of his supporting the 
claims of Tara-Bhai's supposed grandson. 

But the ghost of a grandmother thus raised proved a curse to 
the Peishwa, for Tara-Bhai, old as she was, did not lack energy 
or ambition, and at the time of Muzaftar-Jung's death in 175 l, 
she had taken the opportunity of Bila-ji's absence in the south 
to meet and crush the combined advance of the French under 
General Bussy and the puppet they had instantly set up in 
Muzaffar , s place, to proclaim her own story a pure fiction, put 
the pretended heir into chains, and assert herself Queen of the 

Truly the impossibility at this time of putting reliance on any 
one's word, the fluctuations of faith, the unforeseen, unexpected 
complications arising from the general fluidity of morals, makes 
history read like undigested melodrama. 

Such, then, was India when England, all too tardily, found a 
champion in Robert Clive. 


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A.D. J7SI TO A.D. 1757 

Never was the . strange susceptibility of India to the influence 
of personal vitality better exemplified than in the case of Robert 

When, in 175 1, he first emerged — a good head and shoulders 
taller than the general ruck of Anglo-Indians — from the troubled 
turmoil of conflicting interests, conflicting policies which charac- 
terised India in those days, Hindostan was on the point of yielding 
herself to France ; when, in 1767, he finally left the land where he 
had laboured so long and so well, England was paramount over 
half the peninsula. 

Never in the whole history of Britain was better work done for 
her prestige, her honour, by one man ; and yet that one man died 
miserably from opium, administered wilfully by the sword-hand 
which had never failed his country; administered as the only 
escape from disgrace. 

It will always be a question whether Clive was or was not guilty 
of the charges preferred against him. Those who really know the 
Indian mind, who fully realise the depth of the degeneracy into 
which that mind had fallen amongst the effete nobility of the 
eighteenth century, may well hesitate before denying or affirm- 
ing that guilt, knowing, as they must, how easy a thing is false 
testimony, understanding how skilfully an act, innocent enough 
in itself, may be garbled into positive crime. 

Either way, this much may be said. The benefits he had con- 
ferred on his country were sufficient surely to have ensured him 
more sympathetic treatment at the hands of that country than he 
actually received. 

But this is to anticipate. 

Clive was born— but what does it matter when, where, and how, 



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264 The Modern Age 

a man of deeds comes into the world ? All that is necessary is to 
sav what he did. Clive, then, was a writer, or clerk, in the East 
Indian Company's service. It was not, apparently, a congenial 
emolovment. Quiet, reserved, somewhat stubborn, he led a very 
solitarv life, knowing, he writes in one of his home letters, scarcely 
"any one family in the place." A friend tells a tale of him, 
characteristic, yet hardly sufficiently authenticated for history. 
He found young Clive sitting dejectedly at a table, on which lay 
a pistol. " Fire that thing out of the window, will you ?" said the 
lad, and watched. " I suppose I must be good for something," he 
remarked despondently, when the pistol went off, "for I snapped 
it twice at mv own head, and it missed fire both times." 

Whether true or not true, the lad of whom such a story could 
even have been told must have been something out of the common. 

He was rather a tall English lad, silent, with a long nose and 
a pleasant smile. He was barely one-and-twenty when Dupleix 
took Madras, and for the first time he found himself a soldier. 
He returned to his writership, however, for a time, but such a 
profession was manifestly impossible to his temperament — a 
temperament admirably illustrated by *the following story. He 
accused an officer of cheating at cards. A duel ensued, in which 
Clive, with first shot, missed ; whereupon his adversary, holding 
his pistol to Clive's head, bade him beg his life. This he did 
instantly with perfect coolness, but when asked also to retract 
his accusation, replied as calmly : " Fire, and be damned to you ! 
I said you cheated, and you did. I'll never pay you." 

The adversary, struck dumb by his — no doubt — righteous 
stubbornness, thereupon lowered his weapon. 

Such was the young man who at six-and-twenty, in the absence 
on leave of Major Lawrence, set off as a captain to the relief 
of Trichinopoly with six hundred men. He was completely out- 
classed both in numbers and pecuniary resources, and feeling 
himself to be so, he returned to Fort St David and boldly proposed 
a complete volte face. The French were thoroughly engaged 
aiding their ally at Trichinopoly. If he and his small force made 
a detour to Arcot, the capital, they might find it unprepared. 
They did ; Clive marched in, took possession of the fort before 
the very eyes of one hundred thousand astonished spectators, and 
finding over ,£50,000 worth of goods in the treasury, gave them 
back to their owners, and issued orders that not a thing in the 
town was to be touched ; the result of such unusual consideration 


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Robert Clive 265 

being that, when he finally had to defend his capture, not a soul 
in the town raised a hand against the strange young sahib who 
seemed to have no fear, and certainly had no greed. 

But young Clive had a Herculean task before him. With a 
mere handful of men — three hundred and twenty in all — he had 
to defend a ruinous, ill-constructed fort one mile in circumference — 
ditch choked, parapets too narrow for artillery— from the deter- 
mined onslaught of ten thousand men. And he did so defend it. 
Despite failures due to inexperience, rebuffs due to rashness, 
despite hair's-breadth personal escapes, due to reckless, almost 
criminal courage, he won through to the end. There is some- 
thing impish and boyish about the record of these six weeks' 
siege. How, more out of sheer bravado than anything else, the 
garrison crowned a ruined tower on the ramparts with earth, 
hoisted thereto an enormous old seventy - two - pounder cannon 
which had belonged to Aurungzebe ! How they turned it on the 
palace which rose high above the intervening houses, and letting 
drive with thirty-two pounds of their best powder, sent the ball 
right through the palace, greatly to the alarm of the enemy's 
staff, which was quartered there ! How once a day they fired off 
the old cannon, until on the fourth day it burst and nearly killed 
the gunners ! 

All this, and the thrilling story of the mason who — luckily for 
the garrison — knew of the secret aqueduct constructed so as to 
drain the fort of water, and stopped it up ere it could be used, 
would make a fine chapter for a boy's book of adventure. Here 
it is enough to record that on the 14th November, after a desperate 
and futile assault, the enemy — French allies and all — withdrew, 
and Clive found himself free to follow on their heels to Vellore, 
where he succeeded in giving those of them who were sufficiently 
brave to stand, a most satisfactory beating ; in consequence of 
which numbers of the beaten sepoys, with the quick Oriental eye 
for vitality, deserted their colours. Clive enlisted six hundred of 
the best armed, and returned to Madras, where he was received 
with acclaim, for victory was then a new sensation to the Anglo- 
Indian. A month or two afterwards, however, he was out again 
on the war-path, giving the French-supported army of Chanda- 
S&hib a good drubbing at Cauvery-pak. Whilst out, he received 
an urgent summons to go back to the Presidency town. Major 
Lawrence was returning from leave, and would resume command. 

Despite the urgency, he found time, nevertheless, on his way back 


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266 The Modern Age 

to go round by a certain town which Dupleix, in the first pride of 
victory, had founded under the name of Dupleix- Fattehabad, to 
commemorate — what surely had been better forgotten — his terrible 
act of treachery towards NAsir-Jung in the matter of the ratified 
but delayed treaty which cost the latter his life. And here, with 
the same reckless hardihood which had characterised the whole 
campaign, he paused — though in the midst of an enemy's country — 
to batter to pieces the pretentious flamboyant column on which 
Dupleix had recorded his conquest in French, Persian, Mahratti, 
Hindi. . 

One can picture the scene, and one's heart warms to the English 
boy who watched with glee the hacking and hewing, while the 
natives stood by, their sympathy going forth inevitably to the 
strong young arm. 

Three days afterwards Clive gave up his command, and here 
his first campaign ends. It was very straightforward, very clear ; 
but what followed was complicated— very ! 

Trichinopoly was still besieged : the French backing Chanda- 
Sihib, who claimed it as Nawib of the Carnatic ; the English 
backing Mahomed-Ali, who held it as Nawib of Arcot. To the 
support of the latter Major Lawrence led his mercenaries, and for 
a time the siege was raised. By this time, however, the Directors 
in London were becoming restive over hostilities which inter- 
fered with the commerce of the Company. In order to bring 
the struggle for supremacy to a head, Clive proposed a division 
of forces, south and north. Whether he was actuated in making 
this bold proposal by any hope of getting a command over the 
heads of his seniors or not, certain it is that after agreeing to the 
proposal, Major Lawrence found it impossible to keep to seniority. 
The natives flatly refused to go north unless Clive led them. 

Here, again, the personal equation— the only thing that has ever 
counted in India— stepped in. It was a genuine tribute to Clive's 
possession of that greatest attribute of a good general— fortune?. 1 1 
heartened him up, and he instantly began a second campaign of 
success, driving Dupleix to despair, since after every petty victory 
some of the beaten sepoys, following fortune, invariably deserted 
to the English side. Clive's army, in fact, was a snowball. It 
increased in size as it went, and after the big fight at SamiavSram, 
was joined by no less than two thousand horse and fifteen 
hundred sepoys. But the young man, for all his gloomy face, 
his silence, his stubbornness, had a curiously sympathetic person- 


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Robert Give 267 

ality to the natives. When Seringham was taken, and a thousand 
Rajputs shut themselves up in the celebrated pagoda swearing 
death ere it should be defiled, Clive " did not think it necessary to 
disturb them, ,, but at Covelong he drove the frightened recruits 
back to battle at the point of the sword. After taking Chingleput, 
the campaign came to an abrupt conclusion. Clive, falling sick, 
had leave to go to England. This was in 1752. 

Major Lawrence, meanwhile, in the south, had been fairly suc- 
cessful. The siege of Trichinopoly raised, the French, who had 
done all the artillery work, retreated to Pondicherry. 

But complications arose. Mahomed-Ali, Nawab of Arcot, showed 
indisposition to press his advantage, and to his great chagrin 
Major Lawrence discovered that Trichinopoly itself had been 
promised to the Mysore king, one of Mahomed- Ali's native allies. 
The Nawab himself was ready to repudiate his promise; the 
English, it is to be feared, did not favour straightforward fulfil- 
ment. The result was a hollow compromise, which in its results 
showed that honesty would have been the best policy. For the 
next two years, therefore, Trichinopoly became the scene of con- 
stant warfare, and such was the stress of battle that raged round 
the unfortunate town, that in November 1753 not a tree was left 
standing near it, and the British detachment and convoy which 
finally relieved it was forced to go six or seven miles to get a stick 
of firewood. 

The story of the final and futile assault of the French is a thrilling 
one, especially the incident of the night-attack frustrated by the 
falling into a disused well of a soldier, whose musket going off, 
alarmed the garrison, thus rendering of no avail a previous whole- 
sale tampering with the guard. For the French had no hesita- 
tion in using underhand means ; in this, indeed, lay the strength 
of Dupleix. On this occasion, anyhow, they suffered for it, since, 
pinned between the outer ramparts and an inner one, four hundred 
out of six hundred Frenchmen were either killed, wounded, or 
taken prisoner. 

The year 1740 brought a mutual fatigue of warfare both to the 
French and the English East India Company. They called a 
truce to assert that they had never really been at war, the hostile 
interlude being merely the amusements of mercenaries. 

But the whole affair was comic. The Couttcil-of-Negotiation 
which met at a neutral little Dutch settlement was as unreal as 
the patents produced on both sides in support of the claims of 


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268 The Modern Age 

their puppets. There were seven on the French side for the 
murdered Muzaffar- Jung's successor, Salabut, including one from 
the Great Moghul. The English, too, had patents for their puppet 
Mahomed-Ali, also including one from the Great Moghul. Now it 
is possible that both these contradictory patents were genuine — 
anything was possible in the India of 1754 — but the English one 
was not produced, and the French one had a wrong seal ! 

So the affair ended in added exasperation. 

But in truth France and England's attention was now awakening 
to the unceasing hostilities in India. International conferences 
were held in London, where the Secretary of State, in order to be 
prepared for refusal of his terms, fitted out a fleet for Eastern 
waters. The menace proved successful. France, never greatly 
enamoured of her Eastern Company, gave away the game by 
sending out one Monsieur Godeheu to take over the Governorship 
from Dupleix. 

It was a bolt out of the blue. Whatever his faults may have 
been, the latter had spent his life for, and risked his whole fortune 
in, the Company. He never recovered the blow, but went home, 
sought bare justice by a lawsuit, and died ruined, broken-hearted, 
ere his case was decided. So England has no monopoly in ingrati- 
tude to her public servants. 

Monsieur Godeheu was peaceful, painstaking, praiseworthy. He 
produced an ill - considered but plausible treaty which rather 
knocked the wind out of Clive's sails when he returned to Bombay 
in 1755 with Admiral Watson's fleet, fully prepared to attack 
the Dekkan from the north. He had to content himself with 
a campaign against the pirate-king of Anghria, in the course of 
which a momentous quarrel arose between the English and their 
Mahratta allies. The latter claimed a share of the plunder, 
the former refused it, asserting with righteous indignation that 
deliberate treachery had been proved up to the hilt against their 
so-called allies, and that consequently they were entitled to 
nothing. A sordid quarrel at best, which bore bitter fruit in years 
to come. 

From this, Clive sailed to take up command at Madras, where he 
was met by disastrous news from Calcutta. 

Suraj-ud-daula, Nawib of Bengal, had seized on it, suffocated a 
hundred and twenty-three of its inhabitants — many of them men 
in the best positions — in the Black Hole, and had returned to 
Murshidabad, whence he had issued orders for the destruction 


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Robert Clive 269 

and confiscation of all English property in his dominions. Such 
was the ineptitude of England at that time in India, that two 
whole months elapsed ere Clive, in a fever of impatience, was 
allowed to start for retaliation. 

While we can imagine him fretting and fuming, we shall have 
time for a glance back to see who Suraj-ud-daula was, and what' 
was the cause of his action. 

Ali- Verdi- Kh&n, who, it will be remembered, had ceded Orissa to 
the Mahrattas, had also snatched the Nawibship from his master's 
son ; a graceless youth, it must be admitted, while Ali- Verdi- Khin 
himself was, despite many horrid acts, a fairly just ruler. During 
his lifetime the English had no complaint ; but at his death he 
committed a gross injustice on every soul in his dominions by 
appointing as his heir his grandson Suraj-ud-daula, a perfectly 
infamous young man. No one, apparently, had a good word to 
say for him, except those amongst whom he spent a vicious, 
depraved life. 

His aunt, Ghasita Begum, at any rate, nourished no illusions 
concerning him, and being an ambitious woman, anxious to pre- 
serve her great fortune for future occasions of conspiracy, took 
immediate precautions while Ali-Verdi lay dying against any 
confiscation of her treasures. She employed one Kishen-d&s, a 
pretended pilgrim to Juggernath, to carry them off in boats down 
the Ganges. Once on the river, Kishen steered, not for the sea, 
but for Calcutta. It is difficult to say whether the Governor and 
Council knew what they were harbouring, but the fact remains 
that the treasures sought and found British protection, one 
Omichand, a Hindu merchant, giving Kishen-das hospitality.' 

Suraj-ud-daula took the business very badly. He made a scene 
at his grandfather's death-bed, and accused the English of siding 
with the faction that was against his succession. Yet, when that 
succession was an accomplished fact, and the English agent 
appeared at his audience to apologise in set terms for a so-called 
mistake in turning away, as an impostor, from Calcutta, a spy who 
asserted he bore a letter from Suraj-ud-daula, the latter kept a 
calm countenance and said negligently that he had forgotten the 
incident. And yet it was no slight one ; for there is little doubt 
that the Council were not quite satisfied with its own action. 

The Naw&b, however, was biding his time, and he soon found it. 
War was on the point of breaking out once more in Europe 
between France and England, and orders were, in consequence, 


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270 The Modern Age 

sent out by the Directors of the Company to overhaul fortifica- 
tions. Repairs were at once commenced. This was Suraj-ud- 
daula's opportunity. He first sent a haughty enquiry as to why, 
without leave, the English were building a new wall, and, pretend- 
ing that the reply given was inadequate, followed up his first 
communication by marching to Kossimbazaar with his army, 
sending for Mr Watts the Governor, and with threats forcing 
him to sign an engagement to destroy, within fifteen days, all 
new works which had been begun at Calcutta, deliver up all the 
NawaVs subjects he might call for, and refund any sums the 
Naw&b might have lost by passports of trade having been illegally 

Now, in dealing with these Indian disputes it is notoriously 
difficult to read through the written lines of the formulated 
plaint and counter-plaint, and reach the palimpsest below; that 
palimpsest, of fine, complicated motive which invariably under- 
lies the simplest plea, which makes even a petty debt case in 
India like an English A. B. C. scrawled over a Babylonian brick, 
covered closely with fly-foot stipplings. But here the stipulation 
regarding the Naw&b's subjects gives a clear clue. Whether 
SuraJ-ud-daula had any just cause of complaint or not, his real 
grievance was the loss of his aunt's treasure. 

This abject yielding of the English was fatal. Had any one of 
the type of Clive or John Nicholson been on the spot, events 
might have been very different ; as it was, disaster and destruction 
followed. SuraJ-ud-daula marched on Calcutta, receiving by the 
way the gift of two hundred barrels of gunpowder from our 
treaty-bound friends the French at Chandanagore ! Reading the 
record of these few fateful days in June 1756 one knows not 
whether to laugh or to cry, to let pity or righteous wrath prevail, 
as the history of silly delay and still sillier activities unfolds 
itself. The feverish digging of absolutely untenable trenches, 
the three weeks' delay without any preparation whatever while 
letters were passing to and fro, the neglect to apply for re- 
inforcements to other presidencies, the imprisonment of Omi- 
chand, the miserable fracas in his house, in which a Brahmin 
peon, mad with rage and professing fear lest high-caste women 
should be violated, rushed into his master's harem, killed a round 
dozen of innocent ladies, and then stabbed himself, reminds 
one of nothing but the fateful days of May a hundred years 
after, when Englishmen stood .by and watched the Mutiny 


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Robert Clive 277 

grow from a chance by-blow to a giant unrestrained. Calcutta 
was taken. Mr Drake, the governor, and Captain Minchin, the 
commandant, ran away. The ships weighed anchor and sailed 
out of gunshot, leaving one hundred and ninety deserted men in 
the fort. But if cowardice showed unabashed, courage was not 
lacking, and among those who showed it Mr Holwell deserves 
honourable mention. A civilian himself, he locked the gates of 
the fort to prevent further desertion, and final resistance being 
hopeless, did his best by diplomacy to avert absolute destruction. 
A hard task, for he lost twenty-five of his miserable garrison in 
one assault, and he lost the aid of more by drunkenness : for 
the soldiers got at the arrack store. 

Still, he might have succeeded but for the fact that the Nawib 
lost his temper on finding that the treasury only contained 
^5,000 ! And he had imagined the English rich beyond dreams. 
He jumped to the conclusion that there must be trejasure con- 
cealed, and when none was forthcoming, seems to have cared 
nothing for the personal safety he had guaranteed to Mr Holwell 
and his following of a hundred and forty men, women, and 

The tale of the Black Hole of Calcutta is too well known to 
need repetition. The unfortunate company were herded at night- 
fall into a space 18 cubical feet square, and despite their agonising 
appeals for deliverance, left to suffocate. By daybreak only three- 
and-twenty remained alive. 

And the ships which could have carried them off ere hostilities 
began, which even afterwards might have rescued them, were 
sailing merrily down the river, the full breeze of dawn bellying 
their sails. 

It is an indelible disgrace ! 

Sur&j-ud-daula, disappointed in plunder, retired to Murshidabad 
fulminating vain thunders against all things British, as he 
abandoned himself once more to infamous pleasures. 

But Clive was on his track. Clive, filled — according to his 
letters — "with grief, horror, and resentment " ; determined that 
the expedition should not "end with the retaking of Calcutta 
only, but that the Company's estate in these parts shall be 
settled in a better and more lasting condition than ever." 

The story of his success is a long one, and is, unfortunately, 
marred by more than one doubtful, almost inexcusable act But 
that he should utterly have escaped from the corruption of the 


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2J2 The Modern Age 

whole atmosphere in India at this time is more than any one 
has any right to expect, even of a hero. He was but mortal, 
and from the time he was twenty, had had to steer his way 
through a perfect network of intrigue. Again, his complicity 
in much that happened is by no means assured, for we know 
that he was surrounded by enemies amongst his own country- 
men, who, jealous of his success, angered with his blunt out- 
spokenness, did not hesitate to injure him. Let us consider for 
a moment what Clive must have said to Captain Minchin, to 
Mr Drake, concerning their pleasure-trip down the Hooghly 
while their friends were suffocating in the Black Hole ! We 
have his opinion of the "Bengal gentlemen" in his letters, 
which runs thus : — 

"The loss of private property and the means of recovering 
it are the only objects which take up their attention. I would 
have you guard against everything these gentlemen can say ; 
for, believe me, they are bad subjects and rotten at heart, and 
will stick at nothing to prejudice you and the gentlemen of 
the Committee. Indeed, how should they do otherwise when 
they have not spared one another? Their conduct at Calcutta 
finds no excuse even amongst themselves ; the riches of Peru 
or Mexico should not induce me to dwell among them." 

These are strong words, but they were written under strong 
emotion. Clive, arriving at Calcutta, after a most fatiguing march 
of skirmishes along the river, had been mortified by finding that 
Admiral Watson, who had sailed up it and captured the town 
after two hours' desultory cannonading, had already appointed a 
Captain Coote as military governor. This post, naturally, was 
- Clive's by every right, and he objected strenuously. Matters 
went so far that the admiral threatened to fire on the fort if Clive 
refused to leave it, and though a compromise was effected, the 
affair shows the animus against the young colonel. 

He was hampered on all sides. We find him point-blank 
refusing to place himself under the orders of the Committee. 

" I do not intend," he writes, . " to make use of my power for 
acting separately from you, without you reduce me to the necessity 
for so doing ; but as far as concerns the means of executing these 
powers, you will excuse me, gentlemen, if I refuse to give it up." 

The very existence, therefore, of this friction makes caution 
necessary in judging of Clive's actions, since, except from his 


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Robert Clive 273 

own admissions, we have nothing on which absolute reliance 
can be placed. He seems to have felt himself overmatched in 
every way. Certainly he proceeded with more caution than usual, 
except in regard to his attack on Suraj-ud-daula's camp outside 
the very walls of Calcutta. 

Deputies had been sent overnight to interview the Nawib with 
a view to negotiation, and had returned in confusion, lightless, by 
secret paths, convinced that they were to be assassinated. Huge 
eunuchs and attendants, made still more terrific by stuffed coats 
and monstrous turbans, had scowled at them— the Naw&b had 
been superciliously indifferent. Clive had about two thousand 
men under his command ; the enemy, under Mtr-Jaffar, Suraj- 
ud-daula's general, mustered forty thousand ; but instant assault 
seemed necessary in face of that contemptuous discourtesy. 

It began at dawn, and though, owing to fog, it was not so 
decisive as Clive had hoped, achieved its end, for the very next 
day the Naw&b proposed peace. 

Now in this, again, we must read between the lines. The terms 
of peace which was duly signed — Clive feeling himself far too 
weak to continue war, for a time at any rate — were not acceptable 
to the Committee, for Clive refused to allow the claims of " private 
individuals to stand in the way of the interest of the Com pan v." 
The treaty, in fact, was singularly easy on the Nawab, but it must 
be remembered that Mr Holwell, who had himself been in the 
Black Hole, had exculpated Suraj-ud-daula from wilful participa- 
tion in the ordering of it ; indeed, there seems little doubt that it 
was due to the reckless indifference of subordinates. Thus we see 
here an honest endeavour on Clive's part to deal with Suraj-ud- 
daula fairly and squarely. He trusted him, disregarding Admiral . 
Watson's warning that without a good thrashing^/, treaties with 
natives were of no avail. 

His subsequent disgust at finding this warning had been correct 
must be admitted in defence of his future actions. After endless 
intriguing, difficult to follow, and still more difficult when followed 
to understand — for the friction between Clive and his environment 
seems to obscure everything — the young colonel (he was but 
thirty) seems to have reverted to his desire to dislodge the French, 
with which his services had begun, and, war between the nations 
being opportunely declared, he attacked and took Chandanagore. 
This brought about, however, a complete revelation of the perfidy 
of Suraj-ud-daula, who in letters to the French governor (whom 


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274 The Modern Age 

he calls " Zubat-ul-Tujar? the "Essence of Merchants "), abuses 
"Sabut-Jung" (the "Daring in War," by which name Clive is 
still known in India), and promises his heart-whole support. "Be 
confident," he writes, " look on my forces as your own." 

Clive, conscious of having acted against general opinion in 
trusting the man, resented this personally. Then Suraj-ud-daula 
was practically a monster in human form. By twenty, his vices 
were hoary. So it may well have been honest disgust which 
made Clive first consider the possibility of deposing him in favour 
of Mir-J&ffar. Pages have been written inveighing against the 
enormity of intriguing against a ruler with whom you have a 
treaty of peace. And it is mean according to Western ideals- 
Still, Clive did not shrink from it ; his verdict is brief.: " I am 
persuaded there can be neither peace nor security while such a 
monster reigns." 

So he did not reign long. Mfr-J&ffar was deliberately nominated ; 
a treaty, consisting of a preamble and thirteen articles, solemnly 
and secretly drawn up. In this Omichand, merchant, money- 
lender, spy, informer, a man of infinite influence at Murshidabad, 
was go-between. As reward for his services and silence — for 
otherwise he threatened to warn his real master Suraj-ud-daula — 
he insisted on receiving ^200,000. But, in truth, this treaty reads 
like a huge bill, for in consideration of being made Naw&b, Mfr- 
Jaffar promised the Company to pay, as damages for the sacking 
of Calcutta, ^1,000,000, to the English inhabitants thereof ^500,000, 
to the natives ^200,000, and to the Armenians ^70,000. 

These were immense sums, but they were the result of absurdly 
exaggerated estimates of the treasure in Murshidabad, which was 
currently reported to be at least ^24,000,000. 

So the farce of friendship went on with the Nawib. It was 
a toss-up in the end whether Mir-Jaffar would be faithful to his 
master or to the treaty, and on the very eve of the battle of 
Plassey, that is to say, 23rd June 1757, Clive was still undetermined 
whether to attempt the final blow or to refrain from it. His 
reputation would have benefited if he had ; for England would 
have won in the end without subterfuge. Still, for all this excuse 
is to be found. Even the fact that Clive, in common with half 
the army and navy, was to receive a stipulated present— in his 
case a very large one — must not be counted, as it appears to be 
at the first blush, bribery and corruption. There was no law 
against the taking of douceurs ; the employees of the Company, 


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Robert Give 275 

indeed, were ill paid because of such perquisites, without which 
they could not live. So, had he chosen to ask for a million of 
money, he could only have been counted extortionate in his 
demands. But the trick played upon Omichand with Give's 
support and connivance seems — at least — despicable. Briefly, 
it comes to this. Englishmen were afraid of the scoundrel's 
blabbing, yet they were determined he should not have the 
^200,000 for which he stipulated. They therefore drew up two 
treaties, one with, one without, the stipulation. The one they 
showed to Omichand was forged ; the other was really signed. 

It seems almost incredible this should have been done by 
plain English gentlemen, let alone by one who in many ways 
was a hero ; but so it was. 

To avoid paying ^200,000 out of revenues which did not belong 
to us, we resorted to fraud and forgery. 

There is but one consolation in the case. Clive himself, the 
arch-actor, never regretted the act. When arraigned on this 
charge before the House of Commons he asserted proudly that 
he thought "it warrantable in such a case, and would do it 
again a hundred times. I had no interested motive in doing it, 
but did it with the design of disappointing the expectations of 
a rapacious man, for I think both art and policy warrantable 
in defeating the purposes of such a villain." 

But was Omichand " the greatest villain upon earth " that Clive 
held him to be? Even this is doubtful, and our pity is his, no 
matter what he was, as we read the story, as told by Orme the 
historian, of the conference which was held the day after the 

" Clive and Scrafton went towards Omichand, who was waiting 
in full assurance of hearing the glad tidings. . . . Scrafton said 
to him in the Indostan language : ' Omichand ! the red paper 
is a trick — you are to have nothing.' The words overpowered 
him like a blast of sulphur ; he sank back fainting." 

He did not recover the shock, but died a complete imbecile 
within the year. 

No ! Whatever way we look at this incident it offends eye and 
taste. For it was so needless. If Omichand was the double-dyed 
scoundrel he is said to have been, what more easy than to tell 
him when all was over : " Yes ! the ,£200,000 is yours, but you 
shall not have it." 

Clive, at any rate, was strong enough for that. 


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276 The Modern Age 

The incident prevents the remembrance of Plassey being a 
pure pleasure. It was victory complete so far as it went, and 
by the treaty with Mir-Jaffar Clive's hope "that the Company's 
estate in these parts shall be settled in a better and more lasting 
condition than before " was fully justified ; for not only was Calcutta 
given to it freehold, but also the land to the south of the town, 
as a zemindari subject to the payment of revenue. 

England had a real hold on Indian soil at last, and Clive had 
given it to her. 


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A.D. 1 757 TO A.D. 1767 

IT was in the year 1757, just one hundred years before the Mutiny, 
that the battle of Plassey was fought, and that by the enthrone- 
ment of a Nawab who owed everything to English arms the East 
India Company became practically lords paramount in Bengal, 
Behar, and Orissa. 

It was in the same year that Upper India was once more 
disturbed by the inroad of Ahmed-Shin, the Durrani king of 
Kandahar. Mahomed-Shah, the Moghul emperor, had once 
repulsed him, and Ahmed -Shah, the Afghan's namesake, son 
and successor of the Great Moghul, had, for the six years of his 
reign, watched the north-western frontier nervously. 

But he died in 1754 without signs of the dread invasion. 

It came, however, in Alamgir the Second's time, through no 
fault of that distressful puppet, but owing to the arrogance of 
Gh&zi-ud-din, Grand Vizier, and eldest son of the old fox Asaf-Jah. 
Heredity is strong. In his lifetime there was not a political pie in 
all India into which the latter's wily old finger did not dip, and 
now his descendants carried on the same game. Salabut-Jung, 
his son, was French nominee for the Niz&mship ; Muzaffar-Jung, 
grandson, for the Naw&bship of the Carnatic. N&zir-Jung, who 
perished miserably through the treachery of Dupleix, had been 
another candidate, and at the effete court of Delhi, Ghazi-ud-din 
was virtually king. He chose to insult the widow of an Afghan 
governor of Lahore, and Ahmed -Shah, Durrani, marched to 
avenge it. 

The vengeance was deep and bitter. Delhi was laid waste ; 
the horrors of Nadir-Shih being repeated and excelled, for the 
Durrani had not the Persian's hold upon his troops. He also 
penetrated further down-country than did Nadir, and harried 
the Gangetic plain as far as Muttra. The news of his raid, indeed, 



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278 The Modern Age 

was one of the many factors in the problem of action or inaction 
which Clive had had to decide. But the heat drove the hardy 
northmen back to their hills, and Upper India reverted once more 
to its old peaceful life, Delhi to dreams. It was a drugged city in 
those days, winking sleepily in the sunlight, enduring ravishment 
patiently, returning when the stress was over to watch its pageant 
king sitting on his pinchbeck peacock throne, pretending to be 
all-powerful, looking out haughtily, with opium-dimmed eyes, upon 
a subject world, that in reality cared not one jot for the so-called 
descendants of the Great Moghul. 

In Bengal the English had been king -makers without one 
reference to the sovereign power. In the very Punjab itself, the 
Mahrattas, invited to his aid by Ghazi-ud-din, came and mastered 
the length and breadth of the land. In truth, their star was in 
its zenith. Even in the Dekkan, despite the help of a French 
force under Monsieur Bussy — by far the ablest commander France 
ever sent to the East — Salabut-Jung could with difficulty keep in 
the field against them. 

And France was beginning to find her hands full. War had 
been declared in Europe between her and England, and in 1758 
the Comte de Lally, a man of great reputation, was sent out 
•avowedly with the intention of breaking the English power in 
the East. 

A bit of a braggadocio was Lally, and all unversed in Oriental 
likes and dislikes. He began ill by ousting Bussy, in whom the 
French allies believed utterly, much as the English allies believed 
in Clive. The secret of this belief may be evolved from the 
tale of the taking of Bobbili. It was an old fort held by an old 
family of Rajputs, and Bussy called on it to yield, assaulted it 
for three days, and finally, on the third night, sounded "cease 
firing," and waited for the morning to deliver his final blow. 

Not a sound disturbed the silence of the night. The primrose 
dawn showed pale, the old fort rising stern against it. But the 
gates were open. Bussy entered with caution. The sentries at 
their posts were dead, the streets were empty, but in the arcades 
men lay sleeping their last sleep. 

The palace doorkeepers were on duty — dead ! As he and his 
staff hurried through the narrow passages, they could see through 
dark archways women lying huddled up in each other's arms — 
dead ! The Hall of Audience was reached at last ; and there, 
each in his place, the courtiers had drawn their last breath. But 


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Robert Clive 279 

the chief was not on the throne ; that was occupied by a year- 
old boy-baby, the beloved heir, playing unconcernedly with the 
heron's plume of his dead father, who, with his sword through 
his heart, lay with his head at the feet of his little son. Beside 
him was the only other living soul in Bobbili, the oldest inhabitant 
of the town. 

Youth and age ! The lesson was not unlearnt by Bussy, and 
Bobbili remains a chieftainship to this day. 

Lally, however, was of different mettle. To him, surrounded by 
well-born, fashionable French officers, all things Eastern were 
beneath contempt. What was a Brahmin that he should not do 
what he was told to do, even though the order involved his being 
yoked cart-fellow with a sweeper? 

It was not conducive to anything but discipline ; and discipline 
in India is limited, like all other things, by caste. 

Small wonder, then, that, opposed to such a leader as Captain, 
afterwards Sir Eyre Coote (for Clive could not leave Bengal), the 
French fortunes gradually failed, until in 1761 all hold on India 
was lost by the taking of Pondicherry. Poor Lally ! He had 
pitted himself against Orientalism, and he failed miserably. Yet, 
once again, he did not deserve to be dragged to execution on a 
dung-cart for having been "insolent to His Majesty King Louis 
XVth's other officers " (which was a true count), " and for treason 
to His Majesty himself" (which was false). Of how many reputa- 
tions has not India unjustly been the grave? Truly one can echo 
Lally's last words : " Tell my judges that God has given me grace 
to pardon them : but if I were to see them again, that grace might 

It is a wonderfully human speech. One can forgive him much 
for it, but one cannot forgive his judges as he did ; deep down, their 
meanness, their lack of wide outlook, rankles. 

While Eyre Coote, however, was bringing the French power to 
its end for ever, Clive was consolidating the British hold in Bengal ; 
and still under the stress of utterly uncongenial coadjutors. 

" I cannot help feeling," he writes to the Select Committee, "that 1 
had the expedition miscarried you would have laid the whole blame 
upon me." And this was true. 

The influx into Calcutta of close on ^800,000, paid according 
to treaty from Suraj - ud - daula's treasure chest — which after all 
only contained, revenues counted, something under ^7,000,000— 
seems to have roused rapacity on all sides. It is worthy of note, 


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280 The Modern Age 

however, that Clive's part in the squabble which ensued is invari- 
ably on the side of justice. When Admiral Watson claimed his 
share of the loot as an actual, though not a formal member of the 
Select Committee, Clive at once saw the reasonableness of the 
claim, and set an example — which was not followed — of handing 
over his share of the additional portion which had to be made up. 
He also fought strenuously, and overcame, an attempt on the part 
of the military to exclude the navy from any share in the plunder. 
Indeed, his reply to the " Remonstrance and Protest" sent him by 
the soldiers is worthy of quotation. 

"How comes it," he asks, "that a promise of- money from the 
Nawab entirely negotiated by me can be deemed by you a matter 
of right and property ? . . . It is now in my power to return to the 
Nawab the money already advanced, and leave it to his option 
whether he will perform his promise or not. You have stormed 
no town and found no money there; neither did you find it on 
the plain of Plassey. In short, gentlemen, it pains me to remind 
you that what you are to receive is entirely owing to the care 1 
took of your interests." 

So, after pointing out that, but for this care, the Company would 
only have awarded them at the outside six months' pay, he finishes 
by upbraiding them with their disrespect and ingratitude, and 
placing the officers who brought him the remonstrance under 

Now this letter, frank and straighforward, enables us to see 
the position as Clive saw it. The army was purely a mercenary 
army. From the day on which the English had sided with the 
Naw&b of Arcot it always had been mercenary. The natives had 
paid their allies. The question as to the advisability of this did 
not come in ; the fact remained. Therefore, on the supposition 
that Suraj-ud-daula's wealth was enormous, enormous fees had 
been asked. 

Blame, therefore, could only be given for rapacity, not for the 
actual taking of any fee. And the advantage to the Company of 
what had been accomplished was so incalculable that no com- 
plaint from it was possible. 

It had been an easy task to place Mir-Jiffar on the throne, but 
it required all Clive's will-power to induce him to do as he was 
bid. The spoliation of Suraj-ud-daula's treasury had left him in 
comparative poverty, and he resented being made by Clive to fulfil 


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kobert Clive 2ch 

his engagements under the treaty. Still, he could not afford to 
quarrel with one who maintained the peace by crushing rebellion) 
apparently, by his mere presence. 

Just, however, as he was hesitating over an attempt at inde- 
pendence, news came that the Wazir of Oude was marching upon 
Bengal, and at the same time an envoy of the Mahrattas appeared, 
demanding ^240,000 arrears of tribute. Fear threw him again 
into Clive's arms, who, however, had by this time come to see 
that in choosing Mir-J&ffar as Nawib, he had chosen one who 
would always be a thorn in the side of good government 

"He has no talent," he writes, "for gaining the love and 
confidence of his officers. His mismanagement of the country . . . 
might have proved fatal ... no less than three rebellions were 
on foot at one time." 

Still, by unceasing efforts, Clive is able to report in 1758 that 
the Nawib seems now "so well fixed in his government as to 
be able, with a small degree of prudence, to maintain himself 
quietly in it." Under better management, money was flowing in, 
and the general outlook seemed bright. In the same year Clive 
was by popular acclaim appointed Governor of Bengal. 

The Directors in London had unaccountably overlooked him, 
possibly because he ought really to have returned to Madras, but 
the Council in India felt that, without his personal influence 
with Mir-Jiffar, their position was critical. The whole English 
position was, in truth, at this time dubious. The French had 
been at this period successful on the Coromandel Coast, and 
the prince - royal of Delhi, having quarrelled with his father, had 
left the court, and was on his way with a large army to claim the 
viceroyalty of Bengal. Now, open defiance of the claims of the 
Great Moghul family was rank sacrilege. Mir-Jiffar, with a half- 
eye to ridding himself somehow of British influence, professed 
horror. Clive's thumb, however, was over him, and escape 
impossible. The prince -royal was curtly told that, as rebel to 
his father, he had no authority, and when the Wazir of Oude 
arrived in support of the claim, both he and the prince were as 
curtly and decidedly beaten. 

Mir-J&fTar was now full of gratitude, and determined to give 
Clive (who, as a recognised official of the Court, ought to have had 
one) a jaghir % or grant of land for services done. No high official 
of any native ruler is without one. But Mir-J&rTar was cunning. 


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2$2 The Modern Age 

The xemindariy or land subject to revenue, which, under pressure, 
he had given to the Company was, he saw, really a screw which 
might be used against him at any time by refusal to pay the 
just dues. 

He therefore hit on the happy idea of killing two birds with 
one stone. He would give the quit-rent of this to Clive, and 
leave him and his Company to fight it out between themselves ! 
It really was very ingenious, very acute, as the opposition 
the plan aroused in the Council clearly proved. It is, in fact, 
amusing to read the many arguments advanced against it ; all of 
which are in reality founded on the Company's inward determina- 
tion to use the quit-rent as a set-off against the Nawib. 

He, however, had a perfect right to do as he did, and Clive 
himself is not to be blamed for sticking to a bargain which gave 
him some hold of his enemies and detractors. And yet when, after 
annihilating a Dutch expedition, and forcing on the promoters as 
conditions of peace that they should never again introduce or 
enlist troops or raise fortifications in India, Clive announced his 
intention of going to England on leave, the best part of Calcutta 
was on its knees to him begging him to reconsider his resolution. 

Without him Mir-Jaffar was a broken reed. 

And the Nawab himself was as urgent in appeal. Without 
Clive's help, how could he hope to keep the constant encroach- 
ments of the Company's servants within bounds ? 

But Clive was obdurate. He was clear-sighted, and he saw 
beyond the present. He saw, as he himself writes, that what the 
future might bring "was too extensive for a mere mercantile 
company," and he was eager to get home to impress England 
with his belief, and induce her to stretch out her right hand and 
take the rich heritage which might be hers. Whether in strict 
morality she had a right to do this is another matter. Clive 
thought she had, and in determining the point there can be no 
doubt whatever that (as he himself writes, "with a thorough 
knowledge of this country's Government, and of the genius of its 
people, acquired by two years' experience") one of the chief factors 
which weighed with him was his conviction that the people them- 
selves " would rejoice in so happy an exchange as that of a mild 
for a despotic Government" 

And that the British Government would be mild was by every 
evidence part of Clive's faith in himself and in his country. The 
natives loved him. Nowhere in all his history is there one hint 


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Robert Clive 283 

of cruelty in his treatment of them, unless (as in the case of 
Omichand) hot anger at treachery rose up in him. 

" He was the greatest villain upon earth— I would do it again a 
hundred times over." 

Surely if ever tlive gains bis deserved memorial, these words of 
his should find some place upon it in palliation of the offence 
which tarnished his reputation. An offence which, when all is 
said and done, has something of the nature of an unreasoning, 
impish, boyish trick about it which is reminiscent of other incidents 
in Clive's career, notably the firing of Aurungzebe's old gun at 
Arcot, and the detour to smash up the victory-pillar of Dupleix. 

So Clive went home, and, arriving at an opportune moment of 
national depression after a series of rebuffs abroad, was honoured 
as something of which England could be proud. He was given 
an Irish barony. " I could have bought an English one (which is 
usual), but that I was above," he writes. And yet, apparently, he 
was not above holding his tongue on many matters of national 
importance, because he was afraid of irritating the Court of 
Directors who had the payment of his jdghir money. But Clive 
was ambitious, extraordinarily ambitious, at this time of his career. 

" We must be nabobs ourselves," is a phrase which occurs in one 
of his letters ; also this : " My future power, my future grandeur, 
all depend upon the receipt of the jdghir money." 

What scheme lay hidden in his brain? One thing is certain. 
He scrupled at little which would help him to its realisation. He 
failed, however, in getting a majority in the Council of Directors, 
though to do so he ^employed the discreditable tactics of his 
adversaries by manufacturing votes. In his defence it must be 
remembered that he was fighting single-handed against a corrupt 
monopoly, and that throughout the whole quarrel he never flinched 
from his purpose. 

He took the question of his jdghir, which the Company refused 
to pay, into Chancery, but ere the case was investigated, news of 
so serious a nature was received from India that a sudden and 
imperious call for Clive to return arose on all sides. He had 
made our dominion in the East. Only he could save it from 

The story of what had^happened during his four years' absence 
may be briefly epitomised. 

Alamgir II., emperor at Delhi, had been murdered by his 
minister Ghazi-ud-din from fear of his intriguing with Ahmed- 


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2S4 The Modern Age 

Shah, Durrini, who was once more marching on the Punjab. 
Backed by his Mahraltas, the minister thought himself secure ; in 
this he was mistaken. True, the Mahrattas were in the zenith 
of their power, their artillery surpassed that of the Moghuls, the 
discipline of their army was better than it had ever been before, 
but they had in consequence lost something of their lightness, 
their alertness. 

And they were too numerous. When they finally found them- 
selves entrenched on the old historic battle -plain of Piniput 
awaiting Ahmed-Shah's advance, they numbered no less than 
three hundred thousand. Excellent foragers though they were, 
supplies soon ran short. On the other hand, Ahmed-Shah, with 
the confederacy of Mahomed princes which had joined forces 
with him, mustered but a third of that number. He saw his 
advantage, and waited, replying to his Indian allies' importunities 
to attack : " This is a matter of war ; leave it to me." Night after 
night his small red tent was pitched in front of his entrenchments, 
whence he watched his enemy. " Do you sleep," he would say 
contemptuously to the Indian chiefs ; " I will see no harm befalls 

So the day came at last when the Mahrattas were forced by 
hunger to attack. They fought well ; but by eventide two hundred 
thousand of them lay dead in heaps on the Paniput plain. Nearly 
all the great chiefs were slain or wounded, and Bila-ji, the Peishwa, 
himself died on the way back to 'Poona, it is said from a broken 
heart. Ahmed-Shah, Durrani, returned to Kandahar and did not 
again enter India. 

In consequence of his father's murder the prince • royal, in 
natural succession, became the Great Moghul. As such it became 
impossible to further ignore his claims. But he could be, and 
was, again beaten, together with his ally the Nawib of Oude. 
Matters at M*rshidabad, however, deprived of Clive's guidance, 
had gone from bad to worse. Mr Vansittart, Clive's successor 
in the Governorship, seems to have been weak, and in addition 
could count on no support in his council save that of Warren 
Hastings. The end being that Mir-Jaffar was virtually deposed 
for misgovernment, and his son-in-law Mir-Kassim placed on the 
throne. It was not a clean business, and Mir-Jaffar, full of resent- 
ment, retired to live in Calcutta on a pension. 

Things, however, did not improve under Mir-K&ssim, though 
the Prince- Royal-Emperor, who was still hovering on the frontiers, 


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Robert Give 285 

was interviewed by Mr Carnac (doubtless bearing a satisfactory 
present), and an arrangement entered into by which, in considera- 
tion of being confirmed in the Nawabship, Mir Kassim should pay 
an annual tribute of ^240,000. It is easy to be generous with 
other folks 1 money ! 

Thus secured from invasion, Mir- Kassim began to try and fill 
his treasuries, and instantly complained, as Mir-Jaffar had com- 
plained, of the injury done to him and his subjects by the rule 
which permitted private trade to the servants of the Company, 
who, not satisfied with using their public position to assist them, 
claimed the right to be free of all duties, thus ousting the native 
trader from all markets. 

It was manifest, gross injustice ; but here again Mr Vansittart 
and Warren Hastings were alone in condemning it. 

Afraid to strike at the root of the evil, while continuing the 
absolutely indefensible right to private trade, they agreed with 
the Nawab that the usual duty should be paid. 

This raised a storm in Calcutta, where a full meeting of Council 
decided by ten to two that the agreement should not stand. 

The Nawab retaliated in kind. Since the Council persisted 
in their claim, he would extend its bearings to his own subjects. 
All could now trade free, and let the devil take the hindmost ! 

It was a fair retort. They tried to intimidate him, but he had # / 
the bit between his teeth. Diplomacy had had its day; it was ( * 
now war to the knife ! 

Within a month or two the massacre at Patna took place, in 
which two hundred Englishmen lost their lives in cold blood ; 
but not before the Presidency troops had entered Murshidabad, 
deposed Mir-Kassim, who fled, and reinstated Mir-Jaffar. 

It was a tissue of mistakes from beginning to end, which Major 
Munro's subsequent victory at Buxar over the combined forces of 
the Prince-Royal-Emperor (who had not yet managed to recover 
his capital Delhi), the, Wazir of Oude, and Mir-Kassim did little 
tojectify. For Mir-Jaffar died shortly after of old age, and the 
Council was left without a Nawab to squeeze ! After much dis- 
cussion, however, they decided on putting up Nujam-ad-daula, 
an illegitimate son of Mir-Jaffar's. 

Such was the state of affairs when Clive, to whom, in view 
of the painful state of disorder in Bengal, absolute power had 
been given, arrived in Calcutta on his second period of Governor- 
ship in the beginning of May 1765. 


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286 The Modern Age 

His first act was to decline discussion. 

" I was determined," he writes, " to do my duty to the public, 
though I should incur the odium of the whole settlement. The 
welfare of the Company required a vigorous exertion, and I took 
the resolution of cleansing the Augean stable. ,, 

He began the work at once, and, undeterred by opposition, did 
not rest till he had placed the Indian Civil Service on the upward 
path to its present honoured and honourable position. Perquisites 
and presents were swept away; unbiassed authority given in 

The only real political work of the next two years was his treat- 
ment of, and treaty with, the Prince- Royal-Emperor, Sh&h-Alam, 
who was more than ever a puppet king after the victory at Buxar, 
when he had thrown himself on the protection of the English. So 
anxious, indeed, was he to secure this, that before the answer to 
his petition was received from Calcutta, he encamped every night 
as close to the British army as he could for safety ! 

The treaty into which he then entered contained an important , 
stipulation that the Company should assist him to recover the 
territories usurped by his late ally Sujah-daula, Wazir of Oude. 

Hearing of this the Wazir immediately prepared for resistance 
by joining forces with Ghazi-ud-din, the murderous minister at 
Delhi, and with some bands of Rohillas and Mahrattas. 

But they were poor allies, and Clive, coming to the problem 
with his clear head, proceeded to settle it with a high hand. 
Sujah-daula was left with his territories, save for the district 
around Allahabad, which was ceded to Shah-Alam, the so-called 
emperor, who was also to receive ^260,000 a year as the revenue 
of Bengal. This was to be payable, not as in the past, by the 
Nawab, but by the East India Company itself, who thus became 
the real masters of the country, and so responsible for its adminis- 
tration, its defences ; the Nawab, Nuj&m-ud-daula, reverting to the 
position of pensioner, a position which he accepted gladly with 
the remark : " Thank God ! I shall now have as many dancing- 
girls as I please ! " 

That the bargains were hard all round none can deny, but it is 
difficult to see, as has been stated, that Clive derived any pecuniary 
benefit from them. 

On the contrary, it may be observed that special precautions 
were taken to ensure the legality of the compromise which Clive 
had entered into with the Directors regarding h\sjdghir y when the 


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Robert Clive 287 

public interests, by recalling him to duty, had made some quicker 
settlement of the question than that of a Chancery suit necessary. 
Now this compromise, which gave him the revenues for ten years 
only, or till his death, whichever was the shortest period, was not 
very favourable to Clive. Its continuance, therefore, should not 
be urged, as it often is, as proof of his rapacity. 

The problem which next employed him was one of extreme 
difficulty. It was an enquiry into the conduct of officers in regard 
to their new covenants which prohibited the receiving of presents. 
As a result of this, ten officials who were dismissed for corruption 
went naturally to join the ranks of Clive's many enemies. 

The question of private trade still remained, and was more 
difficult of settlement. For the salary of a member of Council 
was but ^350, and he could not keep up the dignity of his position 
on less than ^3,000. 

Clive settled this in a somewhat makeshift way, but it is worthy 
of note that though as governor his pay was largely enhanced by 
the new scheme, he did not personally take one penny of it, for 
he had declared his intention of not deriving any pecuniary advan- 
tage from his position. The money was spent in augmenting the 
salaries of his office. All this caused much indignation ; many of 
the Council retired, and to fill their places Clive had the temerity 
to import outsiders. No sooner was this over than almost every 
. officer of the army mutinied over the withdrawal of double batta^ 
or war allowances. No less than two hundred commissions were 
resigned, and the outlook was black. 

Clive set his teeth, and though one of the brigades sent in their 
resignations en bloc in the very face of an enemy, he won through 
by indomitable firmness, unending patience. The officers of the 
European regiment at Allahabad gave most trouble, but a battalion 
of sepoys, marching 104 miles in fifty-four hours, brought them to 
reason sharply. 

So, when the fight was over, and the ringleaders — only six 
officers— were tried and punished most leniently (the Mutiny Act 
of the Company's service proving defective), Clive founded the 
military fund which still goes by his name, and which has been, 
and is still, a boon to many a poor widow. Its nucleus was Clive's 
gift of ^63,000. 

But his health was failing. His last act ere leaving for England 
— never to return — in 1767 was to attend a conference between 
Shih-Alam's representatives, Sujah-daula, now the Naw&b of 


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288 The Modern Age 

Oude, and some Mahratta deputies. The question was a pro- 
posal to regain Delhi for the emperor, with the aid of the Company's 

Clive at once negatived it. He saw the Mahrattas were now 
the only possible enemies to peace from whom danger was to be 
apprehended) and' he declined to aid them in any way. On the 
contrary, he urged the foundation of a confederacy to repel their 

This was his last attempt at diplomacy. He left for England, 
to find disgrace and disillusionment awaiting him. He had made 
hundreds, almost thousands of enemies by his just reforms, and 
with a British public ready, as ever, to be gulled, they had their 
opportunity. There is no more pitiful and pitiable reading than 
these records— and in the case of Burke's famous impeachment of 
Warren Hastings they run to volumes — of these tortuous attempts 
to twist Western standards of ethics to fit Oriental actions. Putting 
aside the animus, the devilish desire for. revenge which inspires 
most of them, the absolute ignorance of what may be called the 
atmospheric conditions of India in them remains appalling. 

True, Clive had taken ^180,000 as his share, when Mir-Jaffar 
was enthroned. What then? It was a trifle in comparison with 
the sunnuds gifted to omrahs of the court by many a native princi- 
pality and power to those who served it well. And there was no 
rule against the reception of honours or presents. Certainly, also, 
as one follows Clive through all his great services, one can but 
say that rapacity shows far less in him than in his compeers ; one 
can but echo the words in which the Company, at the time of his 
departure, summed up those services. 

" Your own example has been the principal means of restraining 
the general rapaciousness and corruption which had brought our 
affairs to the brink of ruin." 

Now, however, by the machinations of those whom he had 
checked, he was brought to plead for bear honour before the bar 
of the House of Lords. 

" Before I sit down I have one request to make this Assembly, 
and that is, that when they come to decide upon my honour they 
will not forget their own." 

So he appealed, and the appeal was not fruitless, and England 
was spared the disgrace which France had brought on herself by 
fi her treatment of Labourdonnais, Dupleix, and Lally. 

But the verdict, that " Robert, Lord Clive, as Commander-in- 


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Robert Clive 289 

Chief, had taken a sum of ^280,000,^ but that " at the same time 
he had rendered great and meritorious services to his country," 

was not one to satisfy Robert Clive. 

He was ill ; he suffered from an excruciating disease which opium ' ./ 

alleviated, and he ended all his troubles by an overdose of the drug * 

a few months after the day when, with an intolerable sense of 

injustice at his heart, he quitted the tribunal before which he had 

been so maliciously arraigned. 
For, as he said in his defence, sixteen long years had passed 

since the offence — if offence there had been — was committed ; 

sixteen long years of silence, of confidence well repaid by faithful 


, * 




A.D. 1767 TO A.D. 1773 

While Clive was laying the foundation-stones both of the Indian 
Empire and the Indian Civil Service in Bengal, Madras had had 
its share of wars and rumotirs of wars. It will be impossible, how- 
ever, to treat of them in detail. All that can be done is to pick 
out of the seething mass of intrigue, of incident, those things which 
are necessary to be known, in order that future events shall find 
their proper pigeon-hole. 

The Peace of Paris, signed in 1763, gave back to. France her 
possessions on the Coromandel Coast, and further stipulated that 
the English nominee, Mahomed-Ali, Nawab of Arcot, should be 
recognised by both parties as lawful Nawab of the Carnatic, and 
Salabut-Jung, the French nominee, as Nizam of the Dekkan. 

Regarding the latter, there is grim humour in the fact, that three 
years before the Peace was signed poor Salabut had been ousted 
and imprisoned by his brother Nizam-Ali, and that he was promptly 
murdered by him the moment news of the treaty reached India ! 
It is not always safe to have the support of the ignorant ! 

But the Treaty of Paris did more mischief than the murder of 
the poor prince. It put wind into Mahomed-Ali's head, embroiled 
him with the Nizam, led to complications with the Madras Company, 
which in the year 1765 found itself in the unenviable position of 
having to pay ^900,000 to the Nizam as tribute for the Northern 
Circars, instead of holding them rent free from the Great Moghul, 
as arranged for by Lord Clive. It was a gross piece of mismanage- 
ment, and carried with it the perfectly monstrous provision that 
the Company should furnish troops ready to " settle, in everything 
right and proper, the affairs of His Highness's government." That 
is to say, the Nizam had the right to call the tune without paying 
the piper ! 

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Hyder-Ali et Alia 291 

The very first thing he did was to involve England in a war with 
Hyder-Ali, an adventurer pur et simple who, beginning by being 
an uncontrolled youth divided between licentious pleasure and life 
in the woods, free, untamed as any wild creature, forced himself up 
from one position to another till he held half the territories of the 
Rajah of Mysore, and had usurped the whole government of that 
country. Lawless, fierce, without any scruples of any kind, he 
sided first with one ally then with another, until finally, in 1766, he 
found himself faced with the fact that Mihdu Rao the Mahratta, 
the Nizim, and the Company, were leagued together for his destruc- 
tion. The latter had, some time previously, tried to bribe him 
to proper behaviour, but had failed; for he was, briefly, quite 

Hyder-Ali set to work with his usual fierce energy. He first 
deliberately bought off the Mahratta mercenaries by parting with 
certain outlying portions of his stolen territories, and the gift of 
.£350,000 out of his bursting treasures. It was a big bribe, but 
Hyder-Ali's finances could stand it ; for he was a super-excellent 
robber, with a well-organised army of free-lances for backers. 

Meanwhile, the Niz&nVs forces and those of the Company under 
Colonel Smith were approaching Mysore from different sides. 
It was agreed, however, that the two armies should, when they 
reached fighting distance, join forces in one camp, so as to shqw 
their inviolable unity. But alas ! when this happy consummation 
was reached, the English troops had the mortification of seeing 
the Nizam's troops march out as they marched in ! 

Hyder had been successful with his money-bags once more, 
and after an absurd and futile farce of palavering on the part 
of the Company, Colonel Smith prepared to face the enemy's 
seventy thousand men and one hundred and nine guns with his 
own meagre seven thousand and sixteen guns. It is astonishing 
to think how he won his battle and managed to retreat in safety, 
though he had against his poor thousand of cavalry over forty-two 
thousand of mounted men, pure freebooters by trade. He seems 
to have had mettle, this almost unheard-of Colonel Smith, for 
immediately he received reinforcements he resumed the offensive, 
and after a time completely defeated Hyder and the Niz&m at 
Trincomalee. Concerning this battle a nice little story is told. 
The Nizam, as is the custom of Eastern potentates, had taken 
his favourite women with him to the fight mounted on elephants, 
which stood in line at the rear. The Nizam, seeing the tide 


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292 The Modern Age 

of war going against him, gave orders for the elephants to turn 
and retire, when from one howdah arose a clear, scornful, feminine 
voice : " This elephant has not been taught so to turn ; he follows 
the standard of Empire. 1 ' 

And follow it he did, standing alone amid shot and shell, till the 
royal standards, flying in hot haste, gave him the lead. 

But not even this sort of thing could avail. And Hyder's 
money-bags failed him also in an attempt to suborn an English 
commandant, who replied to the second flag of truce sent in with 
a bribe, that if Hyder-Ali wished to spare the lives of his 
ambassadors, he had better refrain from sending more, as they 
would be hanged in his sight. 

Still, bursting money-bags do much, and ever since the sacking 
of Bednore, an ancient Hindu city where he had found treasures 
worth over ;£ 12,000,000, Hyder had never been crippled by any 
lack of gold. Nothing held him. He was here, there, everywhere. 
Recovering lost territory one day, losing it the next, fighting every- 
body, even the Mahrattas, like a wild cat, and inwardly raging at 
his failure to crush the English, who had just entered into a new 
treaty with his former ally the Nizam, by which the latter again 
acknowledged the rights of the Company to the Northern Circars, 
and further ceded to it, for the annual payment of ,£700,000, the 
whole district of Mysore. Thus Madras gained its diwdni as well 
as Bengal. 

There is something almost ludicrous in the ease with which 
territory changed hands in those days, and we are left with the 
picture in our mind's eye of a be-jewelled potentate and a be- 
stocked officer hobnobbing over bags of rupees, silk-paper docu- 
ments, and large seals. 

This treaty was a bitter pill to Hyder, who retaliated in every 
possible way, until one day, by deft stratagem, he took his enemies 
in the rear, appeared by forced marches before the very walls of 
Madras, so, with the pleasure-gardens and houses of the councillors 
at his mercy, almost compelled a treaty of mutual aid and defence. 

A volte face indeed ! Small wonder that the Directors at home, 
who had been complaining ineffectively of the expenses of the war, 
became bewildered by the sudden change of venue. The general 
public also, seeing the price of East India stock go down 60 
per cent., became uneasy ; there is nothing like a drop in Trust- 
Securities for rousing the national conscience ! Dividends were 
declining, debts were increasing, the glorious hopes of unbounded 


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Hyder-Ali et Alia 293 

riches from India had faded ; actuaries, nicely balancing debit and 
credit against the Company, discovered that no less than one and 
a quarter million of the original stock of four and a quarter of 
millions had gone, disappeared ! 

Fateful disclosures these ! Public outcry rose loud ; voices that 
had kept discreet silence while profit seemed the certain result of 
wars, and treaties, and giftings, were now uplifted against rapacity, 
misconduct, corruption ; in the midst of which the alarming dis- 
covery was made that the Company required a loan of ;£i, 000,000 
from this same public in order to carry on the business. Yet, 
unless the business was carried on, how could the yearly pay- 
ments of ^400,000 to the royal exchequer, on which the public had 
insisted, be continued ? 

Could mismanagement further go ? 

So three supervisors, vested with full powers, were appointed, 
and set sail for India in one of His Majesty's frigates. But Fate 
intervened. They passed the Cape in safety, but were never heard 
of again. 

This was too much. A victim must be found. Therefore Clive 
was arraigned. That story has already been told, so we can 
pass on to the mutual recriminations in Parliament, the growing 
determination on the part of John Bull, honest and dishonest, that 
something must be done, which found fruit in the first Regulating 
Act " for the better management of the affairs of the East India 
Company as well in India as in Europe." By this Act a governor- 
generalship with a salary of ^25,000 was created, together with four 
councillorships of ^8,000. Bombay and Madras were made sub- 
ordinate to Calcutta, and a Supreme Court of Judicature, appointed 
by the Crown, was established at the latter place. All the other 
appointments were to be subject to the confirmation of Parliament, 
and all the holders of these offices were excluded from commercial 

The scheme sounded well, but it provided very little aid in 
reforming the abuses which undoubtedly existed. 

It increased the charges upon revenues already overburdened, 
and the attempt to introduce English ideas of law was calculated 
to produce more injustice, more oppression, and rouse more alarm 
and distrust than the previous absence of it had done. 

But the dividend for the year 1773 had sunk to 6 per cent. 

It was manifestly time to be up and doing—something ! 


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A.D. 1773 TO A.D. 1784 

It will be remembered that Warren Hastings was the only 
Member of Council who supported Clive in his decision that all 
servants of the Company engaging in private trade were bound 
to pay duty. 

Thus, undoubtedly, dive's enemies must have been his enemies. 
He had, however, risen with reputation through the various stages 
of his Indian career; in 1772 was made President-of- the- Council 
in Bengal, and immediately set to work to remedy the existing 
abuses in the collection of the revenue and the whole general 
administration ; a task which was not likely to bring him an 
addition of friends. While this great revolution in system, which 
involved the letting of land by public auction, was in full swing, 
the native potentates beyond Bengal were as usual in a seething 
state of intrigue. The Prince- Royal- Emperor Shah-Alam had at 
last succeeded in getting the Mahrattas to aid him in recovering 
Delhi, though he had had to pay a huge price for their help, 
amongst other things the cession to them of his grant from the 
English of Allahabad. Consequently, the rich country of the 
Rohillas (an Afghan race who had settled in India), which reached 
up from the Delhi plains to the Sivalik hills, attracted him as a 
means of again filling his treasury. The Mahrattas were, naturally, 
nothing loth ; so the combined forces marched on Rohilkund, 
despite the fact that its people were friendly. In the general 
catch-who-catch-can of India in these days, friendship, honour, 
truth, counted for nothing it is to be feared, neither with East nor 

For the tall price of ^400,000 the Nawab of Oude promised to 
rid the Rohillas of the Mahratta hordes ; but being recalled south- 
ward by internal dissensions, the Mahrattas, it is said, left of their 
own accord, and the Rohillas repudiated the bargain. Nothing 
had been done, they averred, therefore nothing was to be paid. 


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Warren Hastings 295 

This gave the Nawab Sujah-ud-daula an excellent pretext for 
war. He had long been anxious to annex Rohilkund, but he 
needed help to cope with its warlike race. He naturally turned 
to the English, who had come to aid him (for they were — and 
small wonder — incensed at the thought of a Mahratta garrison 
at Allahabad) in repelling a threatened invasion of the Emperor 
and his allies. So the Treaty of Benares came to be signed, in 
which, for a payment of ^500,000 yearly, Allahabad was once 
more ceded by the Company (who had promptly repudiated its 
cession to the Mahrattas) to its original and rightful owner, the 
Nawab of Oude. It was also agreed that for a sum of ,£21,000 a 
month the said Nawab should have the right to the services of a 
British brigade. 

So much is certain. Beyond this, unreliability invades the 
whole business of the Rohilla war. It has been so distorted, 
by both sides, in the controversy which arose out of the famous 
impeachment of Warren Hastings, that the truth is now beyond 

Undoubtedly, the British troops were mercenaries ; but so they 
had been from the very beginning, and the exchequer of the 
Company was at the time very low, whilst behind everything 
was the great company of British shareholders clamouring for a 
dividend. Blame may be poured as vitriol on the reputations of 
many men, but the great offender was the general greed of gold 
in England. 

Hastings, however, was already on his defence for this appar- 
ently unnecessary war (which yet brought in grist to the mill) 
when he was appointed the first Governor- General of India under 
the New Act. 

This same Act, however, brought out from England his and 
Clive's bitterest enemy, Philip, afterwards Sir Philip Francis, as 
one of the four councillors. 

So, from the very beginning, Hastings' hands were tied, for 
General Clavering and Mr Monson had come out in the same 
ship with Mr Francis, and were led by the nose by him, leaving 
only Mr Barwell to form an ineffectual minority-with the Governor- 

It was as if the desire at home had been to stultify reform, since 
quarrel began at once. Warren Hastings declined even to con- 
sider the recall of the Resident in Oude, who had been appointed 
by him under the old rules. The Triumvirate not only recalled 


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296 The Modern Age 

him — a man of whom they knew nothing good, bad, or indifferent 
— by their majority of one, but appointed in his stead a Colonel 
Champion of whom they knew less, save that he was the author 
of various highly-coloured, sensational, almost hysterical letters 
on the iniquities of the Rohilla war ; the appointment, therefore, 
tells its own tale of bias. The instructions given to the Colonel 
were incredibly foolish. He was to call for instant payment 
(within fourteen days) of the ^400,000 the Nawab had promised 
to pay on the conclusion of the war, failing which he was to with- 
draw the brigade at all costs. Anything more unscrupulous than 
this demand for what the Triumvirate was pleased to call "blood 
money, ,, while appearances were to be saved by, possibly, with- 
drawing aid at a critical moment, could not be imagined. But 
despite Warren Hastings' vehement opposition, the instructions 
were issued, though Fate intervened in the cause of common-sense 
ere they could be carried out, by the news that the war was over ! 

The dissensions in the Council soon became notorious ; the 
natives — time-servers by nature, and quick to seize on any oppor- 
tunity of ingratiating themselves with those who have the whip- 
hand — lost no time in trumping up charges against Warren 
Hastings. These, even one which alleged that out of a bribe 
of ^90,000, only ^1,500 fell to the Governor-General's share — a 
charge which refutes itself by sheer absurdity — were enquired 
into with reckless, indecent animosity. 

Finally, the complaint of one Rajah Nuncomar brought matters 
to a crisis. In this matter it is almost impossible to blame suffi- 
ciently the conduct of the Triumvirate, who used their wretched 
majority of one, not for any public purpose, but simply to gratify 
private spite. Small wonder was it that, confronted with such 
absolutely unscrupulous animosity, Warren Hastings took up the 
glove and fought fairly enough, but with every weapon he could 
lay his hands upon. 

There was a Supreme Court in Calcutta, and Nuncomar had, 
amongst other and many villainies (for he was known to be a 
desperate and unprincipled intriguer), a bad habit of forgery. 

He had been on trial for this once before, and Hastings had 
interfered for his release. Now he let the law take its course, and 
Rajah Nuncomar, duly tried and sentenced, suffered the extreme 
penalty, for forgery was then in England a hanging matter. 

The execution had immediate effect. The crowd of native 
informers ready to pour their lies into the ears of the Triumvirate 


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Warren Hastings 297 

disappeared as if by magic, but the animosity remained ; and in 
the years to come the death of Nuncomir was used with immense 
effect in the great impeachment. 

Meanwhile, the Naw&b of Oude had died, and his son reigned 
in his stead. Out of this arose fresh disputes on the Council. 
The Triumvirate being all for imposing exceedingly harsh terms 
on the new Naw&b, Asaf-daula ; Mr Hastings refusing to sanction 
what was "no equitable construction of the treaty with the late 
Nawib," and was indeed an extortion which the new ruler had 
"no power to fulfil." 

The Directors at home, however, continuing their career of 
persistent greed, after first refusing to agree with the Triumvirate 
on the ground that " their treaties with Oude did not expire with 
the death of Sujah-daula," suddenly changed their opinion when 
they realised the immense pecuniary advantage to be derived from 
the new arrangement. The extortion, therefore, was carried out, 
Mr Hastings protesting. And now two new problems arose : one 
in Madras, one in Bombay, both presidencies being subordinate 
to that of Calcutta. The first concerned the re-installing of the 
Rajah of Tanjore, which country had been made over to the 
Naw&b of the Carnatic. This was a quarrel which, like a snow- 
ball, grew as it went along, and ended in most extraordinary 
fashion, by the arrest and imprisonment of Lord Pigot, the 
Governor of Madras, at the hands of a vice-admiral of the Fleet ! 
The bewildering complexity of complication in the whole case 
would take pages to unravel, and the result — the death of one 
poor old man (for Lord Pigot succumbed to the ignominious 
treatment meted out to him)— would no doubt, in the opinion of 
the Directors, scarcely justify the expenditure of so much pen and 

The trouble in Bombay arose out of the taking of Salsette, and 
involved conflict with the Mahrattas, who had persisted in refusing 
possession of it to the English. 

The state of affairs amongst the Mahrattas was at this time 
confusion itself. R&gon&th-Rao had been made regent by Baji- 
Rao, who, it will be remembered, had died during his son's minority 
of grief, after the fatal day of Panipat. The boy Peishwa had 
since been murdered ; conspirators had declared that his wife had 
borne a son ; claims and counterclaims, intrigue and counter- 
intrigue, had reduced the Mahratta Government to an invertebrate 
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their earnest desire to keep the Portuguese from again acquiring 
the peninsula (or island) of Salsette, which virtually commands 
the harbour at Bombay. They therefore temporarily annexed 
Salsette, and made its cession the foundation of an offer to aid 
Rigonath-Rao (commonly called Ragoba), who was then in very 
low water, against the opposite faction. The temptation was great ; 
a treaty was signed, by which the East India Company, in addition 
to gaining Salsette and Bassein, were to be paid ^22 5,000. 

But here the Supreme Council at Calcutta intervened — why, 
it is impossible to say — declared in one breath that the treaty 
with Ragoba was <( impolitic, unreasonable, unjust, and un- 
authorised," and advised one with the opposite faction. 

The quarrel, as usual, becomes complicated in the extreme, and 
is rendered more confused than it need have been, even in those 
days of bewilderment, by the double interference from Calcutta 
and from England. Considering that about six months was 
necessary to secure a reply from the former place, and about two 
years from the latter, it is marvellous how any action at all could 
be decided upon. In the end, however, a treaty was signed with 
Ragoba's enemies, which raised great indignation in Bombay, not 
because it involved any breach of honour, but because it brought 
in less to the Treasury. 

Warren Hastings, however, was now busy over financial reforms, 
and despite the quibbling and captious criticism of the Triumvirate, 
evolved a scheme which showed real grip of the problem at issue, 
as indeed might have been expected from a man of his intelligence 
and vast Indian experience. It was, however, rejected by the 
Three, who at the same time excused themselves from suggesting 
any other scheme, because they were not "sufficiently qualified 
by local observation and experience to undertake so difficult a 

Surely fatuousness could no farther go? We have here men 
who consider themselves qualified to criticise, while they admit 
total ignorance of the subject criticised ! 

Stung, no doubt, by this obvious retort, Mr Francis finally 
produced a scheme — a scheme which, containing as it does the 
very first inception of the "Great Mistake" which has dogged 
the footsteps of England in her dealings with India, had better 
have been hanged like a millstone round its promulgators neck, 
and he drowned in the sea, than that it should ever have seen 
the light 


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Warren Hastings 299 

For amid quotations, no doubt, from Adam Smith and Mirabeau 
— the latter in French, after his usual wont — Philip Francis, 
mastertype of the self-satisfied Western mind — the mind which 
degenerates so easily into that of the crank, the faddist — started 
the cardinal error of all errors in India ; that is, the statement 
that the property of the land is not vested in the Sovereign 
power, but belonged to the people.- 

Looking down the years, seeing the manifold evils which this 
pernicious engrafting of Western ideals on Eastern actions has 
produced ; the alienation of the land, the hopeless slavery of the 
cultivator to the money-lender, the harsh evictions rendered neces- 
sary by the loss of the tenant's credit (which had ever been due 
to his unalterable hold on the land, combined with his inability 
to sell it), one can but wish that the millstone had done its work ! 

The evil, however, was scotched for the moment. Colonel 
Monson died, and Warren Hastings, by his casting vote as 
Governor, now ceased to be in the minority. 

He immediately used his newly-acquired ascendency to appoint 
what was practically the first Settlement Commission in India. 
That is to say, a body of tried and experienced officers, who should 
"furnish accurate statements of the values of lands, uniform in 
design, and of authority in the execution," which should serve as 
a basis for revenue, and would also " assure the ryots (peasants) 
against arbitrary exactions," and " give them perpetual and undis- 
turbed possessions of their lands." 

"This," he goes on to say in his Minute, "is not to be done by 
proclamations and edicts, nor by indulgences to zemindars (large 
proprietors) or farmers. The former will not be obeyed unless 
enforced by regulations so framed as to produce their own effect 
without requiring the hand of Government to interpose its support ; 
and the latter, though they may feed the luxury of the zemindars 
or the rapacity of the farmers, will prove no relief to the cultivator, 
whose welfare ought to be the immediate and primary care of 

Bravo, Warren Hastings ! If there was anything to forgive, 
one would forgive much for the sake of such a creed. 

His success spread consternation amongst his enemies. Some- 
thing must be done, and done quickly. 

One Colonel Macleane had gone home, arriving in February 
1776. In a moment of great depression in the previous year, 
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to be conveyed to the Directors, in which he declared that he 
44 would not continue in the Government of Bengal unless certain 
conditions" were accepted. 

No use was made of this letter till the ioth October, when, after 
a stormy attempt on the part of the Company to oust Warren 
Hastings, Colonel Macleane wrote announcing that he held the 
Governor- General's resignation ! 

These are the bald facts. Eager to catch at any excuse for the 
removal of an opponent, the resignation, absolutely unauthorised, 
wholly tentative, was accepted without any discussion of the 
conditions, and a Mr Wheler appointed as successor. 

The English mail of the 19th of June 1777 which conveyed this 
astounding piece of news to Calcutta took almost every one by 
surprise j except, apparently, General Clavering and Mr Francis. 
At any rate, on the very next day the former boldly issued orders 
signed " Clavering, Governor-General," and requested delivery from 
Mr Hastings of the keys. 

A free fight indeed ! That day two councils were held : one by 
General Clavering, with Mr Francis as sole supporter ; one by 
Warren Hastings and the ever faithful Mr Barwell. 

Could animosity, pitiful squabbling, disreputable intrigue, further 

Luckily, there was another power in Calcutta capable of deciding 
the rival claims, and to it Mr Hastings, ever inclined to toleration, 

The Supreme Court decided unanimously in favour of Warren 
Hastings, and so the matter ended for a time ; Mr Wheler, who 
had come out to be Governor-General, taking Colonel Monson's 
place, and, naturally, restoring the Triumvirate, which, however, 
after a brief interval, dwindled again by the death of General 

All this is very petty, very uninteresting, in the face of the vast 
questions which were surging up for settlement all over India, but 
it is instructive as showing the absolute futility of the India House 
in its attempts at control, in its inept shilly-shallying between 
greed of gold and its desire to implant Western ethics on the 
East. So the quarrel went on, involving amongst other things 
a duel between Warren Hastings and Mr Francis, in which the 
latter was badly wounded and had to go home ! 

Meanwhile, the Mahrattas were more than ever at loggerheads 
amongst themselves. Ragoba's claims were readmitted by a 


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Warren Hastings 301 

large number of the faction who had formerly been against him, 
and with whom a treaty had been made. They applied for help 
under that treaty (to reinstate R&goba this time !) and received 
it ; no doubt all the more readily because that gentleman had been 
the Bombay Council's original nominee. Also because, about this 
time, the arrival of a French ship at Bombay with a mission pur- 
porting to be from Louis XVI. to the Mahratta Court at Poona 
caused some alarm. For hostilities seemed not far off in Europe 
between France and England, and the chief member of the so- 
called embassy was one Chevalier St Lubin, who was known to 
have previously been with the Mahratta forces. 

And here followeth a welter of confused incidents, claims, and 
counterclaims, which pages would not suffice to unravel. 

The Triumvirate, reduced to two, opposed help. Warren 
Hastings with his casting vote carried it, but ere the brigade 
sent from Calcutta arrived at the seat of war, R&goba's half of 
the Poona court had whacked the other half, and having gained 
ascendency, proposed to do without their candidate! 

Here was an impasse for people whose Western minds could 
not follow such mental somersaults. To add to their confusion, 
war had been again declared between France and England, and 
before the Council had had time to recover from their surprise, 
the victorious Poona party had been again overthrown, and the 
now ascendant one of Nuna Furnavese was known to harbour 
Chevalier St Lubin, and to have French proclivities! 

There seemed to be nothing for it now save once more to make 
Rigoba a figurehead. 

In truth, as one follows in the maelstrom of Indian intrigue, even 
as briefly as is possible here, the efforts of these harassed, dis- 
tracted Western diplomatists to keep their honour above water, 
one is filled with pity for them. It would have been better not to 
fight at all, if their code of ethics forbade them the full use of the 
weapons used against them. 

So the weary Mahratta war dragged on and on, backed at first 
by the hearty approval of the Court of Directors, who pointed out 
" the necessity of counteracting the views of tire French at Poona." 

This same war was full of incident. Scindiah and Holkar flash 
over its horizon, now in alliance, now in defiance ; territories and 
towns were taken, and lost, and retaken ; the whole wide, central 
plain of India and all the western coast-line was perambulated by 
soldiery ; and in the end, in 1782, a treaty was entered into at 


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Salbai which was utterly disadvantageous to the English, and 
which wrung from the Bombay presidency the despairing cry 
that it must "henceforward require from the Bengal treasury a 
large and annual supply of money" to carry on the concern. 

Meanwhile, in Madras, affairs had not been much more happy. 
During the war with France, Pondicherry had been assaulted and 
had capitulated with the honours of war, but in all other ways 
success was absent. Friction arose between the presidency and 
the Nizam over the question of a French garrison, and though the 
matter was outwardly smoothed over and friendly alliance con- 
tinued, it formed the basis of a confederation between the Mahrattas, 
Hyder-Ali, and the Nizam, having for object the total expulsion 
of the English from India. 

Hyder-Ali, whose sword had been rusting in its scabbard since 
the Peace of 1763, had his own private grievance of help promised 
by treaty and withheld, because the object for which it was asked 
was deemed unworthy. This was a constant cause of the endless 
dissensions between the British and the native princes, and shows 
clearly the absolute folly of attempting, as the Company did, to 
run with the hare and hunt with the hounds ; that is to say, 
to compound a treaty on one ethical basis, and carry it out on 

He instantly commenced operations in the Carnatic, and, though 
the Nizam was bought off by the conciliatory measures of the 
Bengal Council, continued his attack with unhesitating ferocity. 
He was, frankly, a murderous madman, who, as the phrase runs, 
"saw red" on the slightest provocation. But even his excesses 
were no warrant for Edmund Burke's blatant rhetoric in his cele- 
brated impeachment, where " menacing meteors blacken horizons," 
and "burst to pour down contents (?) on peaceful plains" (?). 
Where "storms of universal fire blast every field, and "fleeing 
from their flaming villages, miserable inhabitants are swept by 
whirlwinds of cavalry into captivity in unknown and hostile lands." 

What dictionary did Burke use, one wonders, and how comes it 
that his cheap rhodomontade passes for eloquence ? 

Hyder-Ali, however, made himself very disagreeable, and in the 
short space of twenty-nine days brought one disaster after another 
to the British arms. They began to look on defeat as their 

Madras being, apparently, unable to grapple with its enemy, Sir 
Eyre Coote was sent from Bengal to take command. But he 


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-Warren Hastings 303 

found every military equipment faulty. The commissariat was 
beneath contempt, and for months the British force was kept 
stationary, unable to close with Hyder, who, aided by French 
officers, flashed here and there at his pleasure. But the day of 
reckoning came on the ist July 1781, when Hyder- Ali lost ten 
thousand men, and the English but three hundred and sixty. 

Though fortune continued to waver between the combatants, 
this was practically the turning-point in the war. France, it is 
true, sent a fleet to interfere on the native side ; England sent 
one to checkmate it ; but it was death which finally intervened — 
death who conquered wild, untamable, almost irresponsible Hyder. 
He died suddenly, at the age of eighty, from a carbuncle on 
the neck. 

He left a worthy tiger cub behind him, and Tippoo-Sultan con- 
tinued his father's fierce fighting with unvarying ferocity and 
varying success, helped in all ways by the French, so long as 
that nation continued at war with England. When that ended, 
he fought still, off his own bat, and the war, which completely 
crippled Madras, dragged on with markedly increasing arrogance 
on the one side, and increasing submission on the other, until 
in 1784, in spite of Tippoo-Sult&n's many vile crimes, his shameless 
murderings of English officers, his still more terrible offences 
towards women and children, peace was concluded with him ; a 
peace, certainly, without honour. To the minds of some it may 
seem the most indelible stain on the reputation of the British 
in India. 

Warren Hastings, at the time the treaty was signed by the other 
members of the Supreme Council, was in Lucknow, whither he 
had gone by way of Benares. 

The Rajah of this place had in 1775, it will be remembered, 
found British protection by the treaty with Asaf-daula, Nawab 
of Oude, which Warren Hastings had condemned as unfair, and 
of which one of the articles was the cession of Benares. As usual, 
an immediate dispute arose as to what revenue and charges were 
to be paid ; a dispute which waxed and waned until 1781. There 
can be no doubt but that on the English side increasing impecuni- 
osity prompted growing demands, while on the Rajah's side was 
as constant a desire for the evasion even of just claims. 

That Warren Hastings considered his position unassailable 
is evidenced by the fact that, when, in 1781, on his way to Oude 
he paused at Benares, he placed the Rajah (who, it may be said, 


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was a man of no family whatever) under arrest in his palace 
to await further explanations, in the charge of some companies 
of sepoys who did not even carry ball-cartridge. Palpably, 
therefore, no violence was intended. It could rot have been, 
since Hastings had but a small escort. Rescue, however, was 
immediately resolved on by the populace ; a general rush was 
made for the palace, the sepoys were cut to pieces, and the Rajah 
made good his escape. Almost immediately afterwards, in conse- 
quence of the annihilation of a small British relief force from 
Mirzapore, the whole countryside rose in the Rajah's interest, 
and some time elapsed ere a force sufficient to cope with the 
insurrection could be gathered together. Finally, the Rajah (who 
had throughout protested his desire for peace, even while preparing 
at all points for war) fled to a fort, whither he had previously con- 
veyed most of his treasures. Warren Hastings, therefore, at once 
began to form a new Government. A grandson was selected as 
successor, the tribute payable was increased, and the whole 
criminal jurisdiction of the province (which had been wretchedly 
administered) vested in Bengal. After this the late Rajah was 
pursued to his fort, whence he fled, leaving his women behind. 
His mother attempted defence, but finally capitulated on the 
promise of personal safety and freedom from search ; the latter 
stipulation was, however, undoubtedly violated, as the payment 
of "10 rupees each to the four female searchers" occurs in 
the accounts of the incident. But this in no way implicates 
Warren Hastings, who asserts his great regret that the breach 
of faith should have occurred. It may be mentioned that some 
^300,000 was found in the fort, which, with the amount that the 
Rajah had, doubtless, carried away with him, effectually disposes 
of a poverty which prevented a payment of ^50,000. (These 
details are necessary because of the great stress laid by Mr Burke 
in the impeachment on this Benares incident.) 

The Governor- General had intended passing on to Lucknow, 
but the Nawib Asaf-daula, put out by the delay at Benares, was 
in a hurry, and met Warren Hastings at Chunlr. 

Here a new treaty was signed. It will be remembered that 
when the last one was entered into on the occasion of Asaf-daula's 
accession, Warren Hastings had protested against it as unfair. 
He now, therefore, exempted the Nawa\b from all expenses of 
the English army quartered on him, with the exception of the 
single brigade arranged for by his father, Sujah-daula, and from 


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Warren Hastings 305 

all other expenses to English gentlemen excepting the charges 
of the Resident and his office. 

As a set-off to this nothing was exacted ,• but leave was given 
to the Nawib to resume certain j&ghirs, on condition that in all 
cases where such grants were guaranteed by the Company, 
equivalent value to the annual revenue should be given yearly. 
Not an unfair arrangement, since a fixed revenue, though uncertain 
through the mutability of the person who has to pay it, is less 
uncertain than one dependent on fluctuating crops. 

But there were tvtojdghirs which, so to speak, filled the Naw&b's 
eye : they were those held, and illegally held, by his mother and 
his grandmother. In addition to the vast stretches of land, the 
revenues of which made these two princesses not only independent, 
but as possessors of small armies, dangerous factors for strife in 
internal politics, they were known to possess, and wrongfully 
possess, the treasure, estimated at ^3,000,000, of the late Naw&b. 
To all this they had no possible claim. Under Mahomedan 
law the widow takes one - eighth only of her husband's personal 
possessions, the mother nothing. There is no possibility of will, 
no possible over-riding of the law. They were, therefore, robbers, 
and that the Nawib should have refrained from violence for so 
long is to his credit. This, however, was due to an unwarrant- 
able interference on the part of the British. Mr Bristow, the 
Resident appointed by the Triumvirate, had, with their consent, 
and despite Hastings' dissent, guaranteed immunity to Asaf-daula's 
mother. As a matter of fact, no foreign power was admissible in 
a family dispute ; in addition, the Begum was in the wrong. 

There can be no doubt that Warren Hastings knew the justice 
of Asaf-daula's claim to the treasure, or that English troops 
accompanied the Naw&b to Fyzabad, where the Begum resided. 

Beyond this, we have "diabolical expedients," "torturing pro- 
cesses," "works of spoliation," besides a variety of rhetorical 
and eloquent abuse, on the one side ; on the other, unconvincing 
affidavits of the Begum's complicity in the Benares insurrection 
and a matter-of-fact and apparently credible denial in toto of 
diabolical expedients et hoc genus otnne. 

And behind all we have a very virtuous, very greedy British 
public, which insisted on being paid ^400,000 a year by a 
bankrupt and overburdened concern. 

For that was now the condition of the Honourable East India 
Company. It had attempted too much, or rather ijs servants 


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had done these things which ought to have been done, without 
regard to dividends. At the close of Warren Hastings' administra- 
tion—he resigned his office on the 8th February 1785, practically 
compelled thereto by the action of the Board of Directors — the 
revenues of India were not equal to the ordinary expense of 

A terrible indictment, truly ! For which, however, some excuse . 
may be found in the following short chapter on administrations 
and impeachments. 


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A.D. 1761 TO A.D. 1785 

Clive and Warren Hastings need to be bracketed together in the 
history of India. They were the men who made our Empire, and 
they were both impeached for their methods by their countrymen. 

And both were acquitted. How came this about ? 

There is a little sentence in the History of India by John Mill 
the historian (father to John Stuart Mill), a man presumably above 
sordid considerations, a man whom one would never suspect of 
• commercialism, which answers the question : — 

" In India the true test of the Government as affecting the interest 
of the English nation is found in its financial results? 

This is not intended as blame. On the contrary, Mill goes on 
to make the deliberate but not quite accurate statement that 
Warren Hastings' administration must have been bad, because, 
though in 1772, when that administration began, the revenue was 
but ^2,373,750, as against ;£5,3i 5,197 in 1785, the additional income 
did not provide for 5 per cent, interest on the additional debt 

That and that only was the fons et origo malo. England wanted 

Doubtless the expenses of the ruinous wars which devastated 
India during the latter half of the eighteenth century were a terrible 
charge upon the revenues ; but the revenues increased during the 
same time, and were more than equal to current expenses, only 
they did not provide for ^400,000 a year tax, and the payment of 
more than 5 per cent, interest. 

In truth, England had not yet grasped the significance of the 
White Man's burden ; she wanted to be paid for carrying it. That 
is the bitter truth. 

But during the administrations of both Clive and Warren 
Hastings an effort, at least, was made to make that administra- 
tion worthy of Englishmen. Clive spent his whole force against 


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308 The Modern Age 

corruption ; Warren Hastings spent his in an attempt to govern the 
people peacefully and righteously. So much attention is absorbed , 
as a rule, by the question of his guilt or innocence in regard to 
certain specific charges, that none is given to the masterly way 
in which he turned his brief ascendency in the Council, caused 
by Colonel Monson's death, not to any scheme for personal 
aggrandisement or even to public money-getting, but to the pass- 
ing of a revenue settlement which should protect the peasant. 
In the course of the argument against Mr Francis* views (which 
necessarily formed part of the scheme) Mr Hastings made a remark 
which deserves quotation, if only because it seems to have roused 
no denial, not even from the irrepressible Francis. 

"It is a fact which will with difficulty obtain credit in England, 
though the notoriety of it here justifies me in asserting it, that much 
the greatest part of the zemindars " (bi£ proprietors, petty Rajahs, 
and Nawabs, etc.) "are incapable of judging or acting for themselves, 
being either minors, or men of weak understanding, or absolute 

This is a sweeping indictment which, had it not been incapable 
of denial or mitigation, must certainly have met with censure. But 
even Mr Francis acquiesces. He admits that "many of the 
zemindars will at first be incapable of managing their lands 
themselves. ,, 

Now we have here a most ominous admission which gives us the 
clue by which we can unravel much more in this tangled web of 
eighteenth-century India. 

It was the upper class which was corrupt, which was degenerate 
utterly. Long centuries of unpunished crime, of depravity without 
one check, had done their work. The scions of the small nobility 
were born decrepid ; they died early, outworn by vice, leaving heirs 
as degenerate as themselves. In lesser — ever, thank Heaven ! — 
in lessening degree this has remained the great problem in India : 
how to give freedom to its hereditary rulers, and yet to ensure 
that the race shall not suffer, yet to give it freedom from hereditary 

In the eighteenth century the men of courts and cities were, as 
a rule, vicious to the core. If evidence be needed on this point, go 
to Delhi, go to Lucknow, and there, in the dregs, and lees, and 
off-scourings of what was once a dynasty, you will still find some 
of the meanest specimens of humanity on God's earth. 


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Administrations and Impeachments 309 

It was with the far-away ancestors of these off - scourings of 
dead courts, full, then, of pride and power, that men like Clive and 
Hastings often had to deal. Small wonder, then, if they often 
dealt with them unwisely, harshly, angered by their hopeless 

But the great factor in all the many oppressions which, un- 
doubtedly, formed part of English annexation in India was not 
private rapacity, it was public greed. 

What, for instance, was even Clive's asserted ,£300,000 of 
plunder beside the ^400,000 of yearly tribute to the English 
Exchequer? As for Warren Hastings' fortune, he left India an 
impoverished man, with scarce enough wherewithal to pay the 
expenses of defending himself from the charge brought against 
him by his country for unbridled peculation. 

Both Clive and Hastings had hard parts to play, and, consider- 
ing the difficulties against which they had to contend, they played 
them well. Though, perhaps, neither of them realised (and 
certainly no one else did) that the times in which they lived were 
transitional, that the very existence of the East India Company 
as a purely mercantile concern was fast drawing to a close, and 
that a new life of responsibility—the life of true empire — was 
opening before it, they acted as if they had so realised it. They 
flung rupees behind them to stay the gold-grubbing multitude, 
careless, over-careless of how they gained them ; but — but they 
took their own way ! Hastings especially identified himself with 
the people of India ; he learnt their language, knew their hoarded 
wisdom, and often appealed to the lessons of their past history. 

This in itself was an offence to the self-sufficient West, which 
failed, and often still fails, to find excuse for a breach of its own 
laws in the different ethical standards of the East. 

Take Clive's rapacity. There was no law forbidding the recep- 
tion of presents. He did great things, very great things for Mir- 
Jlffar, and under the same misconception of enormous wealth, 
which made the country itself claim one million of money as com- 
pensation for a loss of ^5,000, he accepted a fee of ;£i 80,000. 

Regarding the Omichand incident — the only other accusation 
formulated against him which is of any importance—it is, at least, 
arguable that when bare existence for your countrymen depends 
on outwitting a traitor, an informer, a villain, any weapon is legal. 

In like manner, if it is possible to disentangle the actual 
charges made against Warren Hastings from the network of 


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words in which Sheridan and Burke caught the unwary minds 
of many ignorant people, it will be found that in every charge 
which went up to trial a simple excuse bars the way of blame. 

The charge concerning his responsibility for the extermination 
of the Rohillas, of which he was acquitted even by the House of 
Commons, finds answer in his vehement dissent from the treaty 
forced on him by the Triumvirate, and by which he was bound to 
provide the Naw&b of Oude with troops. 

That concerning his cruelty to the Rajah of Benares is met by 
the undoubted fact that no article in the treaty with the latter 
gives colour to the contention that the tribute payable was a fixed 
and unalterable sum, while the fact that ,£300,000 worth of treasure 
was discovered in the possession of the Rajah's women, disposes 
effectually of the plea that poverty prevented payment. 

Against the accusation of his having aided and abetted the 
Naw&b of Oude in seizing and confiscating the personal property 
of the Begums, stands the undoubted fact that these ladies could 
not, by the laws of India, possess such property ; while the charge 
of undue cruelty in the treatment of these same ladies is absolutely 
unprovable, by reason of the conflicting evidence on both sides. 

Then the charge of having, during his administration, raised 
the cost of the civil establishment some ^5,000,000, is more than 
met by his undenied efforts to place the Government of India on 
a basis worthy of England, and by the necessity for either accept- 
ing and carrying through new responsibilities, or allowing the 
Company to sink back into its former state, when a paltry ^20 a 
year was all the salary it could afford to pay men whom it yet 
vested with almost unlimited power of extortion. 

The eighth and last count — for it is as well to confine refutation 
to what actually went up for trial— his personal rapacity and cor- 
ruption is answered conclusively by the undoubted fact that when 
he retired, the sum of some ^72,000 represented his entire fortune. 

Truly, there was some justification for the bitter cry with 
which he ended his defence — a defence which lies practically 
in denouncing English greed for gold : — 

" I gave you all, and you have rewarded me with confiscation, 
disgrace, and a life of impeachment." 

He was on his trial for no less than nine years. 
These two great men left India a very different place from what 
they had found it. The East India Company was trying now to 


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Administrations and Impeachments 311 

govern, as well as to make money. There was scarcely a district 
throughout the length and breadth of the land into which the 
thought of England had not entered ; few in which the lives of 
Englishmen did not form a not always wholesome example. In 
Lucknow, however, Claude Martin, soldier of both France and 
England, quaint admixture of honour and dishonour, while he 
aided and abetted the Nawab in cock-fighting, drew the line at 
debaucheries, though he kept a considerable number of wives. 
This, however, was forced on him by his own merits, since the 
courtly, good-looking, middle-aged Frenchman's favourite charity 
was the educating of orphans, and the girls for whom he performed 
tnis kindly office had a trick of refusing the eligible partis offered 
them, and electing to remain with their guardian ! 

Walter Reinhardt, nicknamed the " Sombre," was not so estimable 
a creature. He was, undoubtedly, the murderer, while in the 
Nawab of Bengal's service, of the English at Patna in 1763, and 
the arch-factor in many other crimes. But he met his dues by 
marrying one of the most remarkable women of India. It was 
no light task to be the husband of the Begum Sumroo, who buried 
a laughing girl at whom the blue-eyed German from Luxembourg 
had cast an approving glance, under her chair of state ; buried her 
alive, and sat on her for three days. Four was not necessary ; 
Walter the Sombre had learnt his lesson in three ! 

After his death she ruled her state of Sirdhana, not very far 
from Delhi, until she died in 1838, a very old woman, who 
possibly, despite her conversion to Roman Catholicism, looked 
back on her youth as a dancing-girl in Delhi with a vague regret. 

Then there was George Thomas, an Irishman, whilom favourite 
of the aforesaid Begum, who cherished the hope — so he says — " of 
attempting the conquest of the Punjaub, and aspired to the honour 
of placing the British Standard on the Attack.'* He only suc- 
ceeded in establishing for himself an independent principality 
.near Hansi, which he yielded to Lord Lake in 1803. 

But all over India, in almost every town of import, English- 
men were to be found in positions of trust under native rulers. 
Briefly, they had come to stay ; and no amount of legislation by 
Parliament, no prohibition of diplomacy, no exhortation to refrain 
from treaties or from meddling in native politics, could now avail 
to prevent England from becoming first factor in India. 

It may be worth while to glance round that India and gain, as it 
were, a pictorial view of it at the time when England and the 


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312 The Modern Age 

English Parliament first assumed political responsibility in regard 
to it by the establishment of a Board-of-Control appointed by the 

In the far north, Kandahar and Kabul were, as ever, engaged 
in petty warfare, the sons and grandsons of Ahmed-Shah Durrani 
each striving for the mastery. The Punjab was held by the Sikhs 
so far as the Sutlej. What are now called the Cis Sutlej States 
including the great battlefield of Pinipat, being under Mahratta 
influence. This influence had also made itself felt at Delhi, 
where the Great Moghul, Star-of-the-Universe and Defender-of- 
the- Faith, Shah-Alam by name, led the life of a pensioner, a 
prisoner, his authority gone save as a watchword to rouse strife. 
Oude was m the hands of the British debauchee Asaf-daula. 
Thence passing through Benares lay the English-held Bengal, 
Behar, Orissa. Westward was Poona, Guzerat, almost all 
Rijputana, Agra, and a great part of Central India ; these were 
strongholds of the Mahrattas. Mysore, headquarters of the 
man-monster Tippoo-Sultin, murderer-in-chief after his father 
Hyder-Ali's death, disputed Central India the Dekkan fief of 
that half-hearted ally the Nizam. Below that, again, came the 
Carnatic, held by that most troublesome and expensive of 
potentates the Nawab of Arcot, tame bear (and bore) to the 
Madras Presidency, which must have wished its protigd at the 
bottom of the sea many and many a time. 

And under all these broad classifications, such a welter of 
proud, poor principalities and grasping, vicious courts as surely 
this world's history shows nowhere else. The horrid outcome 
of unlimited, unbridled power in the past. 

And below this again ? 

Below this, again, the dreaming heart of India, unchanged, 





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A.D. 1786 TO A.D. l8l I 

The heroic age of the history of British India is now past. 
Forced by Fate and by the strong right hand of two strong men, 
England, with one eye still fixed on gold, had had to turn the 
other on the duties of empire. So the Company was, as it were, 
split in twain. The old commercial interests were dealt with, as 
heretofore, by the Board of Directors, but the control "of all acts, 
operations, or concerns, which in any wise relate to the civil or 
military government or revenues of the British possessions of the 
East Indies," was vested in a Board of six members, all appointed 
by the Crown. 

The word " British " is noteworthy in conjunction with posses- 
sions, and shows the ease with which the English nation, while 
still loudly condemning the action of the East India Company, 
availed itself of the result of such actions. The chief point of 
interest in the New Act was the power given to Parliament to pay 
the salaries, charges, and expenses of the Board of Control out 
of the revenues of India, provided this charge did not exceed 
;£ 16,000. This was the nucleus of the present payment of ;£ 144,000 
in the India Office alone. 

As regards the Constitution in India few changes were made, 
and, after a brief tenure of office on the part of Mr Macpherson, 
Lord Cornwallis went out to India as Governor- General. He had 
served successfully in Ireland, but with disaster in America. Con- 
sidering his entire ignorance of even the first conditions of Eastern 
life, his Governor- Generalship was much less disastrous than it 
might have been, though it was marred by the crystallisation 
of the Great Mistake which Mr Francis had first presented in 
nebulous form ; that is to say, the engrafting on India of the 


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it 4 The Modern Age 

Western idea that the land cannot possibly belong to the State, 
but that some proprietor must be found for it. 

But ere this was embodied in the Permanent Settlement of 
Bengal, Lord Cornwallis found his hands full of minor diplomacies. 
Tippoo-Sultan was at war with the Mahrattas, and the latter had 
foolishly been given promise of assistance by the British. 

"An awkward, foolish scrape," writes the Governor-General. 
" How we shall get out of it with honour, God knows ; but out of 
it we must get somehow, and give no troops." 

That, practically, was the first charge on his administration* 
How to get out of minor squabbles, and leave the prime movers to 
fight it out amongst themselves. Hitherto the British troops had 
been mercenaries. As such they had made their influence felt in 
every corner of India. Now all was changed. England was a 
power in the East, hostile or friendly as she chose, not to be bribed 
to the support of any one. His next task was to interview the 
Nawab of Oude on the subject of the protection of his state, and 
in so doing rather to sidewalk round this firm non-mercenary 
position adopted by the Board of Control. For ,£500,000 was 
taken yearly as payment for two brigades which were to bring 
" the blessings of peace " under the aegis " of the most formidable 
power in Hindustan." Asaf-daula, however, was hardly worth 
protecting. He extorted every penny he could get from every- 
body in order to spend it on debauchery, and allowed his ministers 
to cheat and plunder both him and his country. 

Another and a more worthy visitor pleaded for an interview, 
and was refused the favour. This was Jiwan Bakht, the heir- 
apparent to the Emperor Shah-Alam. He had been received by 
Warren Hastings, who, possibly because he saw in him a promise 
not often to be found in the Indian potentates of those days, 
allowed him £40,000 a year as maintenance. "Gentle, lively, 
possessed of a high sense of honour, of a sound judgment, an 
uncommon quick penetration, a well - cultivated understanding, 
with a spirit of resignation and an equanimity almost exceeding 
any within reach of knowledge or recollection." 

Such was the character given by the great Proconsul after six 
months of daily intercourse ; but caution was now the order of 
the day. 

" The whole political use that may be derived " (from an inter- 
view) " is at present uncertain, but there may arise some future 


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The Board ot Control 315 

advantage if we can gain his affection and attachment . . . but I 
have already prepared his mind not to expect many of the outward 
ceremonials usually paid in this country to the princes of the 
House of Timur, as they would not only be extremely irksome 
to me personally, but also, in my opinion, improper to be submitted 
to by the Governor-General at the seat of your Government." 

So wrote Lord Cornwallis, and Jiwan Bakht, with spirit and 
resignation, contented himself finally with a request that he might 
be allowed at least asylum under British protection. He died of 
fever shortly after at Benares. Poor, proud prince of the blood 
royal ! Was he really next-of-kin, as it were, to the Great Moghuls ? 
If we had given him a chance, as we gave it to the monster 
Tippoo, to half-a-hundred scoundrels all over India, would he 
have regained the empire of Akbar ? Who knows ? He vanishes 
into the "might-have-been" with his high sense of honour, his 
spirit, and his resignation. 

After this, Lord Cornwallis with a light heart took in hand the 
abuses of both the civil and the military services, and managed, 
by "making it a complete opposition question" which "brought 
forth all the secret foes and lukewarm friends of Government," 
to obtain higher salaries and better positions for both soldiers 
and civilians. 

So far well. Then once more Tippoo-Sultan intervened, and 
in a trice India was back in the old days of intrigue, secret treaties, 
allies, and war. Even Lord Cornwallis, the Liberal pillar of 
upright, straightforward policy, fell before the peculiar temptations 
of Oriental diplomacy. There is much to be said for him. Tippoo 
was an unwarrantable survival. He ought long before to have 
been hanged, drawn, and quartered. As it was, he burst in upon 
the coming civilisation and culture, as Mr Burke's * meteor' burst 
upon the * peaceful fields.' 

It would take too long to tell the tale of the four years' war 
during which the Mahrattas, the Dekkanites, and the English, 
hunted Tippoo ineffectively from pillar to post, and he retaliated 
in kind. Finally, in 1792, he was cornered at Seringapatam, and 
once more peace was concluded with a man who deserved nothing 
but the death of a mad dog. 

Then ensued a partition of spoil after the old style ; each ally 
receiving so many lakhs of money, so much territory. After which 
Lord Cornwallis, covered with glory, found leisure to address 
himself towards crystallising into our rule for ever— unless some 


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316 The Modern Age 

Government arises strong enough to put the wheel back and start 
afresh — the Fundamental Error, the Great Mistake of the British 
Empire in India. 

In 1793 Mr Dundas and Mr Pitt, neither of them possessing 
a scrap of first-hand knowledge of their subject, " shut themselves 
up for ten days at Wimbledon" (Heaven save the mark!) and 
evolved out of their inner consciousness the Permanent Settlement ; 
thus once and for ever — unless for the forlorn hope of a strong 
Government — alienating from the Sovereign power of India a 
possession which had been the Crown's by right beyond the 
memory of man — in all probability for over five thousand years. 

As usual with all overwhelming errors, it was done from the 
purest motives of truth and honour, mercy and judgment ; that 
is to say, from the Western definitions of these virtues. As Lord 
Cornwallis writes, he was restoring the rightful landowners 

"to such circumstances as to enable them to support their 
families with decency and give a liberal education to their children 
according to the customs of their respective castes and religions," 
thus securing "a regular gradation of ranks . . . nowhere more 
necessary than in this country for preserving order in civil society." 

It sounds quite unassailable to Western ears ; but the results 
opened Western eyes. The measure was passed in 1794 ; in. 1796 
one- tenth of the land in Bengal, Behar, and Orissa was on sale. 
The ancient order of zemindars, so far from giving a liberal educa- 
tion to its children, was fast disappearing, glad to accept the small 
amount of hard cash, if any, which remained over after settling up 
ancestral debts. A new race of proprietors was as rapidly taking 
the place of the old, to the disadvantage of the peasant. For as 
Sir Henry Strachey writes : — 

"The zemindar used formerly, like his ancestors, to reside on 
his estate. He was regarded as the chief and father of his tenants. 
At present the estates are often possessed by Calcutta purchasers 
who never see them." 

Nor were the judicial reforms of Lord Cornwallis much more 
happy. "Since the year 1793," says Sir Henry Strachey, "crimes 
of all kinds have increased, and I think most crimes are still 

This was a natural result, first of the attempt to graft English 
law with all its legalities on Eastern equity, but mostly of the 


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The Board of Control 317 

crass ignorance of native life everywhere displayed. Mr Shore, 
afterwards Lord Teignmouth, expresses this well when he says : — 

" What judge can distinguish the exact truth among the numerous 
inconsistencies of the natives he examines ? How often do those 
inconsistencies proceed from causes very different from those 
suspected by us ? How often from simplicity, fear, embarrassment 
in the witness ? How often from our own ignorance and impatience ? 
We cannot study the genius of the people in its own sphere of 
action. We know little of their domestic life ; their knowledge, 
conversations, amusements ; their trades and castes, or any of those 
national and individual characteristics which are essential to a 
complete knowledge. Every day affords us examples of some- 
thing new and surprising, and we have no principle to guide us 
in the investigation of facts except an extreme diffidence of our 
opinion, a consciousness of inability to judge of what is probable 
or improbable. . . . The evil I complain of is extensive, and, I 
fear, irreparable. The difficulty we experience in discerning truth 
and falsehood among the natives may be ascribed, I think ... to 
their excessive ignorance of our characters and our almost equal 
ignorance of theirs." 

The last sentence is perhaps scarcely strong enough, for Lord 
Cornwallis failed to find one civil servant of the Company in 
Madras who was "tolerably acquainted with the language and 
manners of the people." 

Meanwhile, war had once more broken out between France and 
England, and though it had not yet disturbed India, Tippoo-Sultin, 
with his usual hardihood, bragged of the marvels of the French 
Revolution to the English officer charged, now that the ransom 
had been paid, with the duty of restoring the Sultin's sons, who 
had been kept as hostages. A trifle, which yet showed the way the 
wind was blowing. The Niz&m of the Dekkan, also, irritated by 
the tepid neutrality of Lord Cornwallis, had fled for help to French 
arms. Nor was Scindiah better pleased. Though of low caste, 
being sprung from the slipper-bearer of Bala-ji, the first Peishwa, 
no Mahratta house claimed higher honours. Practically, it was 
master of half Hindustan, and it had been greatly offended by 
the refusal of Lord Cornwallis to accept its offer of help against 
Tippoo in consideration of a like number of troops to those 
promised to the Nizam. So on all sides there was hostility — 
a hostility increased by Sir John Shore's policy (he succeeded 
Lord Cornwallis as Governor- General) " to adhere as literally as 
possible to the strictest possible interpretation of the restrictive 
clause in the Act of Parliament against entering into war." 


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318 The Modern Age 

Naturally, the fat was soon in the fire. The Mahrattas, always 
eager for a fray, fell upon the wretched Nizam, who, fortunately 
for him, failing British aid, had that of France ; but so had 
Scindiah. Therefore Monsieur Raymond and Monsieur de Boigne 
crossed swords ; until the death of Ragoba the Peishwa turned 
all Mahratta thought to the choice of a new ruler. 

English thought, also, was at this time (1798) engaged in a 
question of succession. Asaf-daula, the Nawib of Oude, had died, 
acknowledging a certain Wazeer-Ali as his son and successor. So 
the dissolute, disreputable lad of seventeen was promptly placed by 
the British Government on the throne with all honour : it did not 
do to divert the weather eye, which was always open for " future 
advantage," to such trivialities as kingly qualities. But alas 
and alack for the British Government, its choice was instantly 
challenged by Sa'adut-Ali, the late Nawab's brother, who brought 
proof that not only Wazeer-Ali, but all Asaf-daula's reputed 
children, were spurious. 

At first England hesitated at deposing her Nawab. Then? 
Then it is extremely difficult to know what the real motive under- 
lying the action was, but in 1798 we find Sa'adut-Ali on the throne 
of Oude, no longer an independent ruler, but a mere vassal of 
the British Crown. The plea of adoption raised by Wazeer-Ali 
had been dismissed, and in honest truth, not absolutely without 
cause. For the Mahomedan law does not specifically recognise 
it, especially when near blood-relations exist. 

These events, together with the death of old Mahomed Ali, 
Naw&b of Arcot, aspirant to the Nawibship of the Carnatic — 
whose debts had been a veritable millstone round the neck of 
his consistent backer, the East India Company — saw Lord Corn- 
wallis and Sir John Shore through their term of office, and Earl 
Mornington, afterwards Marquis Wellesley, reigned in their stead. 
He landed in April 1798 and found himself instantly confronted 
with the results of the non-interference policy; that is to say, 
with renewed war with Tippoo-Sult&n, who — the remark has been 
made before— ought long ago to have been hanged. 

It is somewhat refreshing to find that immediate negotiations 
were carried on both with the Nizam and the Mahrattas in absolute 
defiance of Mr Pitt's famous minute against diplomacy! But 
nothing restrained Tippoo, not even considerations of personal 
safety. He was well backed by the French, with whom the 
English were still at war. So he tried conclusions with splendid 


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The Board of Control 319 

audacity. And failed. Seringapatam was once more taken, and 
this time Tippoo was found dead under a heaped mass of suffocated, 
trodden-down corpses in the north gate t But he, apparently, had 
died a soldier's death, for the flickering light of the torches by 
which the search was made showed that a musket ball had crashed 
into his skull above the right ear. 

It was a better death than he deserved, for though his territories 
were well administered, and though Seringapatam was found to 
be fortified, garrisoned, provisioned, better than many a modern 
fort, and though in every way his vitality was superhuman, it was 
the vitality of a devil, and not of a man. Hyder-Ali, his father, 
had been wild, untamable, given to long solitudes in the jungles, 
remote from all save savage beasts. Let the only excuse, there- 
fore, which can be made from Tippoo-Sult&n be given him— he 
was born with insanity in his blood. 

Relieved from the Tiger-cub— the golden Tiger-head footstool 
of the throne found in the royal audience chamber at Seringapatam 
is now at Windsor — who had kept Madras in a constant state of 
alarm for close on half a century, the Board of Control settled 
down to various pieces of policy, for it must not be forgotten that 
all political work had been taken out of the hands of the East 
India Company. This is a point frequently overlooked, so it must 
be borne in mind that for all actions after 1784, the Board of 
Control, that is, a body of unbiassed English politicians appointed 
by the Crown, are entirely responsible. They settled a disputed 
succession in Tanjore, they ousted the Nawib of Arcot, and by 
putting a nominee of their own on the throne with a pension of one- 
fifth of the revenue only, became vested with the whole of the rest 
of the Carnatic. They then turned their attention to Oude, where 
the Government of Sa'adut-Ali was in a shocking state of disorder. 
Reformation being urged upon him, he wilily announced his inten- 
tion of abdicating, and thus gained some delay. Rather to his 
disadvantage than otherwise, since Lord Mornington was not 
long in producing a cut-and-dried scheme by which the Company 
should "acquire the exclusive authority, civil and military, over 
the dominions of Oude " ; and also that by " secret treaty, not by 
formal abdication," the Nawdb, in consideration of receiving a 
liberal pension, the family treasure and jewels, should agree to 
his sons' names being " no further mentioned than may be necessary 
for the purpose of securing to them a suitable provision." 

It was a big order, and to it the Nawib naturally objected. But 


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320 The Modern Age 

the screw was too tight. He had yielded himself vassal in order 
to gain the throne. His government was atrocious. It was 
practically impossible for the New Code of Western Ethics, which 
was everywhere raising its head in menace to the iniquities of 
the East, to look on such things and live. So in the end the 
treaty was signed ; and whatever else the result might be, one 
thing is certain, the inhabitants of Oude were none the worse for 
the change of rulers. 

A trivial detail in the confused complication of this transaction 
deserves unstinted blame, and that was Lord Mornington's accept- 
ance of the offer made by one of the Begums of Oude to constitute 
the Company her heir. This was openly avowed to be a means 
of escaping from the extortions of her grandson the Nawab, but 
though it seems equitable enough to Western ears, it must not be 
forgotten that the India law of inheritance of those days allowed 
no right of will, neither did it sanction the possession by any widow 
of wealth beyond a certain small proportion of her husband's real 
and personal property, which in this case could not have included 
anything but personal effects, the rest belonging to the Crown. 

Volumes might be written on this question of the English action 
in regard to Oude, but practically there are but one or two facts, 
one or two admissions, to be made on both sides. 

First, it is at best doubtful if we had any right to depose 
Wazeer-Ali in favour of his uncle. True, the right of adoption 
does not hold good in Mahomedan Common Law, but Indian 
history gives countless examples of Mahomedan sovereigns nomi- 
nating their own successor, though it must be admitted that 
this nearly always only held good where there was no collateral 
heir. Second, this deposition was undoubtedly in our favour. By 
elevating Sa'adut-Ali, a small pensioner to the throne, we gained a 
hold on him which enabled us to dictate our own terms at the time, 
and, by the mere fact of the vassalage to which we reduced him, 
to enhance these terms at our convenience. 

On the other hand, none can deny that the state of affairs in 
Oude strained patience to the uttermost ; nor that in essence, 
the throne of Oude was of our own creation. It had only a 
history of a hundred years, and owned its very existence to the 
protection of England. 

The year 1800 showed the outlook all over India more than 
usually threatening ; so lowering indeed, that Lord Mornington, 
now the Marquis Wellesley, consented to prolong his service in 


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India in order to tide affairs over the crisis which seemed about 
to come. 

The chief factor in the unrest was Mahratta jealousy. The 
Nizam of the Dekkan, their hereditary enemy, had just been 
granted a new treaty. Under it he had been promised a definite 
protection of troops in consideration of his ceding territory to 
the revenue amount of the subsidy which he would otherwise have 
had to pay— and, no doubt, would have paid irregularly. 

It may here be remarked that this desire to secure regular 
payment for the mercenary troops necessary to maintain prestige 
and power, was nearly always the cause of English aggression and 
annexation in India. 

This treaty affronted the Mahrattas, but ere they could formulate 
their grievances, internecine war broke out amongst them, conse- 
quent on the death of Nana Furnavese, the Peishwa who had for 
so long opposed Ragoba. Over this Holkar and Scindiah, who 
for some time past had been at each other's throats, fought 
furiously, and the new Peishwa, Biji - Rao, feeling himself in 
danger of falling between the two stools of his unruly vassals, 
applied to England for the protection of six battalions of British- 
trained sepoys, and promised in return to cede territory of the 
annual value of ,£225,000. 

It was granted to him, but the treaty contained other stipula- 
tions regarding future relations which practically reduced the 
Peishwa to a state of dependence. 

Holkar and Scindiah, on the part of their sections of the 
Mahrattas, resented this fiercely. As usual, they refused to be 
bound by the Peishwa's pusillanimity. So war was declared ; 
a war which for the time taxed even Sir Arthur Wellesley's 
military genius to the uttermost, for the Mahrattas were born 
fighters. But the battle of Assaye, fought on the 23rd of 
September 1803, broke their power in Central India. They had 
over ten thousand disciplined troops commanded by Europeans, 
chiefly French officers, and a train of one hundred guns, in 
addition to nearly forty thousand irregular infantry and cavalry. 
Against these Arthur Wellesley had but a total of four thousand 
five hundred men, but they included the 78th Highlanders, the 
74th Regiment, and the 19th Dragoons. 

It was a fine fight ; a double fight, for when, overwhelmed by a 
real bayonet charge— the first, possibly, they had ever seen— the 
Mahrattas fell back on, and passed, their guns, the artillery men, 


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322 The Modern Age 

feigning death, flung themselves in heaps on the ground. So, 
ridden over by the pursuing cavalry, treated as dead, spurned as 
things of no account, they remained until, the tyranny overpast, 
they were up and at their guns again, bringing volte face destruc- 
tion to their enemy's rear. It needed a desperate charge of the 
Highlanders, with Arthur Wellesley himself at its head, to retrieve 
the day. 

The number of British killed was one thousand five hundred 
and sixty-six, more than one-third of their total force. 

England, however, was now finally on the war-path ; hesitation 

was over, the Mahratta power all over India had to be crushed. 

No less than fifty-five thousand British troops of all arms were 

gathered together in India, and these were divided out between 

p the Dekkan, Guzerat, Orissa, and Hindustan proper. Of the fore- 

11 ' most of these divisions the record has just been given ; the two 

next, though successful, were in all ways of minor importance. 

The last, under General Lake, was the largest, and consisted of 

nearly fourteen thousand men all told. He advanced up the 

Gangetic plain, and the battle of Alighur was fought before that 

of Assaye. It was practically fought against Scindiah's forces 

f under General Perron, the celebrated French commander, who, 

* \ with De Boigne and Raymond, had been for many years the 

.v I backbone of resistance against England. But it was fought in 

' ' the name of the blind Shah-Alam, puppet-emperor of India, for 

the Mahrattas, always good fighters, had sent round the fiery 

cross on every possible pretext of personal and national loyalty, of 

tribal faith and racial adherence. 

But on the 16th of September, after a pitched battle before 
Delhi in the low-lying land across the river Jumna — the country 
sacred now to pig-sticking ! — General Lake rode with his staff to 
the palace which Shahjahan in all his glory had built, there to 
have the first interview which a conquering Englishman had ever 
had with the Great Moghul himself. 

It was a fateful interview. In the palace, glorious still in its 

lines of beauty, an old man, blind, decrepid, seated under a tattered 

canopy, poverty - stricken, miserable. By his side, soon to be 

b Akbar II., was his son, and his grandson, the man who after- 

\ *' # wards, as Bahadur-Shah, served out the measure of his crimes in 

the Andaman Islands. 

It reads like some bad nightmare, does that circumstantial 
description given by Lake of his ride through the thronged city 


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The Board of Control 323 

at sunset -time, when the people, wide-eyed, curious, expectant, 
crowded so close that the little cavalcade could scarce make a 
way for itself. 

Of what were they thinking, those poor Delhi folk who had 
suffered so often at the hands of so many men ? Were they still 
faithful to the memory of the Moghuls, or did their eyes seek 
wistfully in the faces of the newcomers for a new master? 

Certainly on that 16th of September at sunset- time, after the 
interview had fizzled out with the exchange of empty titles, and 
as " Sword of the State," " Hero of the Land/' " Lord of the Age," 
and " Victorious in War," Lake and his staff left the old palace to 
nightfall, and the old king to dreams, a pale ghost may well have 
walked through the halls of audience beneath the reiterated pride 
of that legend : " If there be a Paradise upon Earth, it is this, it 
is this, it is this," and asked itself what might have been if instead 
of a fever-stricken grave at Benares, it had found help to recover 
kingship ? 

Poor Jiwan Bukht ! Had you, indeed, as your name implies, 
the Gift of Life ? 

Perhaps you had — and we squashed it ! 

But there was more to be done by Lake's force ere on the 
27th February 1804 Scindiah, who was in reality the man behind 
the gun, gave in, and a treaty was signed which enabled the (£#£% 
Governor- General to give vent to his feelings in the following v * 
bombast : — 

"The foundations of our empire in Asia are now laid in the 
tranquillity of surrounding nations, and in the happiness and welfare 
of the people of India. In addition to the augmentation of our 
territories and resources, the Peace manifested exemplary faith 
and equity towards our allies, moderation and unity towards our 
enemies, and a sincere desire to promote the general prosperity 
of this quarter of the globe. The position in which we are now 
placed is such as suits the character of the British nation, the 
principles of our laws, the spirit of our constitutions, and that 
liberal policy which becomes the dignity of a great and powerful 
empire. My public duty is discharged to the satisfaction of my 
conscience by the prosperous establishment of a system of policy 
which promises to improve the general condition of the people 
in India, and to unite the principal native states in the bond of 
peace under the protection of the British power." 

After which there was naturally nothing to be done save to 



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324 The Modern Age 

whack Holkar also ; for he had kept out of the scrimmage discreetly. 
This campaign was not so successful. The fort of Bhurtpore 
withstood four assaults, and might have withstood four more, had 
not peace with honour ^nd a donation of ^200,000 intervened. 

This — for the Rajah of Bhurtpore was an independent ally of 
the Mahrattas — rather upset Scindiah's calculations, for he was 
on the point of rejoining Holkar in defiance of all treaties. So 
the ultimate issue stood deferred when the Marquis of Wellesley 
ceased to be Governor-General. 

He had deviated horribly from the "restrictive policy," and 
had consistently acted in the way which Parliament had pro- 
nounced to be "repugnant to the wish, the honour, and the policy 
of our nation." 

But that policy had been a broken reed. It was virtually the 
policy of folding the arms, and awaiting the blow in the face 
that was bound to come sooner or later. 

Nevertheless, the expense of Marquis Wellesley's wars told 
against his reputation ; he went home obscured by a cloud of 
deferred dividends, and Lord Cornwallis returned for a second 
attempt at Indian administration. Age had undoubtedly cooled 
the ardour of his blood, for he immediately made most pusil- 
lanimous concessions to Scindiah for the sake of peace, passing 
over flagrant breaches of treaty with an easy diplomacy, and 
might have done infinite harm had he lived longer. But he died 
at Buxar within two months of his arrival in India. 

Sir George Barlow took his place, but thereon arose a fine 
dispute between the Directors of the India House and the Ministers 
of the Crown concerning the patronage of this appointment. 

Perhaps this was the reason why England failed to learn a 
lesson which would have been of use to her fifty years afterwards ; 
for the little mutiny at Vellore occurred in 1806, and the Great 
Mutiny in 1857. 

Yet the causes were identical. In 1857 it was a greased 
cartridge, in 1807 it was a cap ; but beneath both lay unreasoning 
fear of forcible conversion to Christianity. A fear which grew 
to bloodshed, and which found the Europeans, as ever, totally 
unprepared. Nearly one hundred of them lost their lives, and 
but for Colonel Gillespie's swift ride from Arcot, and the wisdom 
of the officers in command at Hyderabad, the mutiny might have 
spread, as did the one at Meerut in May 1857. And it must 
be admitted that those sepoys of Vellore had greater cause of 


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The Board of Control 325 

offence than they of later years ; for they were asked to shave 
to European pattern, to wear a hat-shaped turban, and appear 
on parade minus their caste marks. 

All this, including Sir William Bentjnck's recall (he was 
Governor of Madras at the time), went on while the India House 
and the Crown were at daggers drawn over the Appointments 

The latter meant to nominate the Earl of Lauderdale, who, as 
a pronounced free-trader, threatened to break up the Indian 
monopoly. The fight ended by the Earl of Minto, President of 
the Board of Control, taking up the appointment in 1807, which 
he held till 181 1. It was an uneventful administration, the ex- 
tinction of the Company's monopoly, which marked its close, being 
the only feature in it which claims a place in this modest outline 
of history; this, and perhaps the fact that owing to greater 
facilities of borrowing the Company was enabled to pay off its 
old debts which it had contracted when the rate of interest was 
12 per cent., and renew them at 6 per cent. ; thus effecting a 
reduction of half a million in expenditure. 

As an instance of how little the Board of Control and the policy 
of inaction had benefited the finances of the Company, it may 
be mentioned that whereas its debt was in 1793 but ^7,000,000, 
in 181 1 it was ^27,000,000. 

But the world was beginning now to count it as a gift — as the 
cost of Empire. 


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A.D. l8l2 TO A.D. 1833 

The Act of Parliament which inaugurates this period did not 
entirely extinguish the monopoly of the East India Company ; 
that was reserved for the Act which marked its close. Yet the 
one promulgated in 181 3 was sufficiently wide in its scope to 
partake of the nature of a revolution ; for although the trade 
with China — chiefly tea — remained on its old close footing, that 
with India was thrown open to any one who possessed a licence, 
such licences not to be solely obtainable through the Council of 
Directors, but also through the Board of Control. But there were 
two additional clauses in the bill which, though grafted in upon 
it during its lengthy passage through Parliament, were of more 
gravity than some of original import. One was the forming 
of a regular Church Establishment in India — a formal declaration, 
as it were, of the creed of the new master ; the other the inclu- 
sion of missionaries as persons to whom a licence to pursue their 
trade might be given. Taken together, these two clauses went far 
towards an admission that it was the duty of England to uphold 
her own faith. The speeches that were delivered for and against 
these clauses in Parliament are excellent reading; perhaps the 
most informing of them being one by Sir J. Sutton, who, attempt- 
ing to hedge, as it were, objected to the open avowal in the clause 
that persons were to be sent to India for "the introduction of 
religious and moral improvement," as calculated to alarm and 
annoy, and suggested that the words "various lawful purposes" 
should be used instead. The suggestion was treated seriously ; 
Mr Wilberforce, the great speaker on the missionary side, assuring 
his hearers that it was extremely unlikely that the natives of India 
would ever read the clause^ and ending with an impassioned asser- 
tion that unless actual mention of religion was made in the Act 



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The Extinction of Monopoly 327 

it would stand tantamount to a decision that though Christianity 
was the faith of England, the creeds of Brahma and Vishnu were 
to be upheld by England in India. There was a strong religious 
party in the House, representing a stronger one in England. And 
feeling had been roused by Lord Minto's refusal to allow certain 
Baptist missionaries to print, publish, and disseminate pamphlets 
calculated to arouse indignation amongst the people of other faiths. 
So, despite a very able protest from Mr Marsh, who asserted that 
it must be remembered that the people "we wished, to convert 
were in the main a moral and a virtuous people, not uninfluenced 
by such ideas as give security to life, and impart consolation in 
death," the clause was passed. 

There is also an excellent speech made by a Mr Tiernay on 
the Commerce question, in which he pertinently remarks that 
amongst all the benefits which he was told were to accrue to 
the people of India from free trade, he had never heard even of a 
proposal to allow one manufacture of India to be freely imported 
into Great Britain ! But such remarks were of no more avail 
then than they are nowadays, when the manufactures of India 
are stinted by the duty on cotton twists, and her markets glutted 
by free Manchester muslins. 

The whole history of the cotton trade, in truth, is grievous. At 
this time, when Parliament was piously purposing to preach to so- 
called heathen the religion which claims first place as teaching 
the duty of doing to others as you would be done by, the woven 
goods of India could have been sold in England at rates 50 
and 60 per cent, cheaper than similar goods manufactured in 
England. What then? Were they so sold? or sold at a price 
which would have brought wealth to the miserably poor Indian 
craftsman ? No ! The mills of Paisley and Manchester were pro- 
tected by a duty of 70 and 80 per cent, on these Indian goods, 
thus sacrificing those to whom we wished to teach Christianity 
to those who, at any rate, said they had that faith. 

Ere going on to the events of the next few years it must be 
mentioned that the East India Company, while vehemently pro- 
testing, had some sops thrown to it by this Act. One was that 
the "commercial profits of the Company were not in future to 
be liable for any territorial payments until the dividend claims 
had been satisfied." This was extremely comforting. Further- 
more, ;£ 1,000,000 sterling was to be set aside from the surplus 


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328 The Modern Age 

revenue (when it existed, but up to the present it had not) to 
meet any failure. 

With this, and a few more scraps of comfort, H.M.E.LC.S. 
had to be satisfied and start fair with a new Governor-General, 
Earl Moira. One is irresistibly reminded, when following this 
history of English dealings with India, of the fable concerning 
King Log and King Stork ; for after a calm, there comes invari- 
ably a storm. How many governor-generals have not sailed out to 
India, loudly protesting peace, prepared at all points to uphold 
the non-interference clause ? How many have sailed back again 
with reputations either marred, in English eyes, by change of 
policy, or kept intact by leaving behind to their successors a state 
of affairs out of which war was the only escape ? 

Earl Moira, therefore, suffered from Lord Minto's efforts after 
economy by his undue reduction of the army, by his refusal to 
see what was going on around him. So the first thing to be 
faced was the necessity for war in Nepaul if the boundaries of 
Oude were to be preserved intact. Hitherto Great Britain had 
been pacific over invasion to the point of pusillanimity, dreading, 
and not without just cause, a campaign amid the ascending peaks 
and passes of the Himalayas, backed by the unknown regions of 
its eternal snows. 

But at last these dangers had to be faced. It took a whole 
year of hill-fighting in the finest scenery in the world, and in 
a climate which must have been some compensation for other 
hardships, ere a treaty of peace was signed at Segowlie, by which 
England gained in perpetuity the magnificent provinces of Kumaon 
and Gharwal. 

Meanwhile, India was not happy. The well-meaning Western 
attempt to raise money by a house-tax in large cities had nearly 
brought about an insurrection in Benares, where the pandits had, 
not without cause, claimed the whole city as a place for worship, 
and as such exempt ; while an assessment for municipal police led 
to hard fighting at Bareilly. 

But by this time Earl Moira's eyes had been opened. On every 
side he saw dangers to the State-politic which could not be averted 
save by action. The predatory system, so often the curse of 
divided India, was in full swing. In truth, no power wielded 
sufficient authority to keep the others in order. What was happen- 
ing in 181 5 was what would happen in 191 5 if the alien rulers 
of India were to adopt a policy of non-interference. The Pindirees 


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The Extinction of Monopoly 329 

were the chief offenders ; since time immemorial their hordes of 
free-booting horsemen had been a terror, and of late years they 
had aided and abetted the Mahrattas. But, despite growing 
atrocities, it was not until 1816 that Parliament would permit 
them to be coerced. 

Meanwhile, Rajputana was smouldering. After the murder of 
the Emperor Farokhsir the various states fell into the hands — as 
did almost all India — of the Mahrattas ; not without hard fight- 
ing, not without bitter beatings, and still more bitter upbraiding, 
as when after one defeat the Rana of Oudipore made a common 
courtesan carry the Great Sword-of-State, avowing that in " such 
degenerate times it was no better than a woman's weapon." 

So matters had gone on from bad to worse, while Scindiah, 
dissociating himself from the Peishwa, became paramount, until 
in 1778 Rajah Bhim came to the throne of M6war (Oudipore, 
Chitore). During his reign Scindiah and Holkar fought almost 
continuously over the hills and dales of Rajputana, and the former 
threw the weight of his savage influence into the pitiful tragedy 
of Kishna Kumari, the Virgin Princess. Her story is well known, 
but if only for the strangeness of such an incident being possible 
in the nineteenth century, and in a court where Englishmen 
came and went, it may be given here. 

Kishen Kumari, the Virgin Kishen, was beautiful exceedingly. 
She was promised in marriage to the chief of Jeypore. Scindiah, 
incensed at non-payment of a claim by the latter, opposed this in 
favour of the chief of Marwar ; and in the ensuing struggle to 
the death, Bhtm Singh, seeing ruin before him, determined to 
sacrifice his daughter's life as the only way of ending the strife. 

They tried to poinard her, she standing calm ; but the dagger 
fell from the hand of the brother appointed, as one of sufficient 
rank, to the deed. Then they tried poison. She drank it three 
times calmly, bidding her grief-distracted mother remember that 
Rajput, women were marked out for sacrifice from birth, and that 
she owed her father gratitude for letting her live so long. But 
the poison refused its work ; so, as calmly, she asked for a kasumba 
draught to make her sleep. It was prepared. Sweet essence of 
flowers, sweet syrup of fruits, concealed the deadly dose of opium ; 
she laid herself down and slept, never to wake. 

A terrible tale, which merits the comment made on it by old 
Sagwant Singh, chief of Karradur, who, riding hard for Oudipore, 
flung himself breathless from his horse with the quick query : 


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330 The Modern Age 

"Does the princess live?" And hearing the negative, went on 
without a pause up the stone steps of the palace, through the 
wide courtyard, adown the passage, till he found Maharajah Bhim 
upon his throne. Then he unbuckled his sword. 

" My ancestors," rang out the passionate, protesting old voice, 
"have served yours for thirty generations. To you, my king, I 
dare say nothing, but never more will sword of mine be drawn 
in your service." 

So, laying it with his shield at the feet of the weakling, he left. 
A fine old Rajput was Sagwant Singh ; one feels glad he said 
his say. 

This, however, is by the way. Nine years after it happened — 
that is to say, in 1819 — after the war with the Pindarees (which, 
of course — since war is ever bred of war in India — involved 
hostilities with the Peishwa, with Holkar, with Scindiah, with all 
the native states, briefly, who tried to bar the progress of the new 
master), Rajputana found itself eager to claim alliance with a 
power which, instead as of old protesting against protection, was 
now not only willing to grant it, but prepared to make its promise 
good against all comers. 

For once, then, in the sweeping changes which the year ending 
in 1 8 19 brought about, the English gave as good as they got. No 
great battle had been fought, but Scindiah was humbled, Holkar's 
aggressions had been stopped, the Peishwa's very name had dis- 
appeared, and on all sides alliances had been formed — durable 
alliances, which would no longer require the sword to enforce them. 
And all this arose out of Parliament's hesitating admission that 
certain predatory robbers must be restrained, and Earl Moira's 
wise interpretation of that scant assent into action which, after two 
weary years, settled the great territorial question of India as only 
it could be settled ; that is to say, as the Earl (afterwards Lord 
Hastings) phrases it : " by the establishment of universal tran- 
quillity under the guarantee and supremacy of England." 

But the Gurkha or Nepaulese war, and the third and final 
Mahratta war, unfortunately, only form part of Lord Hastings' work. 
He was not so happy in dealing with the question of Oude. It 
had simmered for long : the Nawib, who had been encouraged by 
Lord Minto, complaining of the interference of the Resident ; the 
Resident complaining of obstinate obstruction on the part of the 
Nawab. In the middle of the quarrel Sa'adut-AH died, leaving 
treasure, despite his plea of poverty, to the amount of ;£ 13,000,000. 


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The Extinction of Monopoly 331 

He was succeeded easily, quietly, with the help of British influence, 
by his eldest son, who, to show his gratitude, offered one of his 
father's millions to the Company as a gift. It was accepted as a 
loan at the usual rate of interest, 6 per cent. 

But the young Naw&b was even more turbulent than his father, 
and when a second million was asked for on the same terms as the 
first, took the opportunity of practically demanding the withdrawal 
of the Resident. Now it is impossible to be harsh with a potentate 
who has just loaned you two millions of money out of his private 
purse. Without for a moment doubting the decision that Major 
Baillie the Resident had been wanting in respect, the fact remains 
that he went to the wall, and that the Naw&b was set free of all 
control in his administration. Furthermore, after a treaty signed 
in 1 8 16, by which the loan of the second million was written off 
against the cession of a piece of territory scarcely worth the sum, 
the Naw&b was further encouraged and advised to assume the 
title of King ; thus once for all asserting his equality with, and not 
his dependence on, the shadow of the Great Moghul at Delhi. 

So, to the extreme indignation of the latter^ sham Court and the 
scandal of all true Mahomedans, he proclaimed himself " Gh&zi-ud- 
din-Hyder, King of Oude, the Victorious, the Upholder of Faith, 
the Monarch of the Age." 

Not such a very poor specimen at that, whether taken at native 
or English estimate ; for he was at least amiable — a kind, not over- 
clever princeling, who cultivated the Arts in a dilettante fashion. 

For the rest, though the long service — over nine years — of the 
Marquis of Hastings was eminently successful, it was not likely 
that one who rode rough -shod over the faddists' cry for non- 
interference at home could escape without censure. But regular 
impeachment was impossible towards one who had actually aug- 
mented the public revenues by ^6,000,000 a year ! So he escaped 
the fate of Clive and Warren Hastings. 

He was succeeded by William Pitt (Lord Amherst) after an 
interregnum during which a Mr John Adams, armed with supreme, 
if brief authority, carried on a crusade against the press which, in 
view of recent occurrences, is singularly informing. The censor- 
ship had been abolished by Lord Hastings in rather bombasti- 
cal language, which scarcely matched the severe inhibitions that 
followed against anything like criticism ; the actual result being, 
that while the name of an invidious office was abolished, the press 
was left to face prosecution. In the case of the Calcutta Journal^ 


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332 The Modern Age 

against which Mr Adams tilted, the end was deportation of the 
editor to England ! 

The Burmese war, however, occupied Lord Amherst until 1826, 
when various minor campaigns became necessary ; one against a 
y Sikh mendicant, who announced himself as the last of the Avatars 
/' of Krishna, incarnated for the express purpose of ousting all 
foreigners from India. Bhurtpore, also, had to be finally taken, 
a usurper expelled, and a six-year-old rajah established on the 
throne, under the guidance, naturally, of a British resident. Such 
things had to be if the standard of Western ethics was to be 
enforced in Government. 

There remained also Oude, that perennial thorn in the side of 
those who had created it Ghazi-ud-din-Hyder had lent a million 
and a half more money to the Company— had lent it at 5 per 
cent. ! — but yet, he complained, there was no pleasing the English 
master ! There is something pitiful about the good-natured king's 
plea that misgovernment could not exist, because Oude from one 
end to the other was cultivated like a garden ; there was not even 
a waste place in it whereon an army might encamp ! And as for 
the disturbances on the British borders, was he responsible for the 
landholders being Rajputs by tribe, soldiers by profession, and so 
refusing to pay except by force ? And for what did he pay English 
soldiers, except to use force ? 

There was force, anyhow, in his arguments, but his grievances 
remained unredressed at his death in 1827, when he was succeeded 
by his son, N&sir-ud-din-Hyder. 

So, without any great excitement save the Burmese war, Lord 
Amhersfs Governor-Generalship came abruptly to an end, owing 
to sudden illness in his family, which prevented his awaiting any 
arrangement for his successor. This is somewhat typical of one 
who never seems to have taken any personal interest in Indian 
questions, who, in fact, seems to have wearied of the East. He 
was the first Governor-General who found a Capua at Simla. 

Then, after much striving, Lord William Bentinck, who had 
been deprived of the Government of Madras in 1807 in conse- 
quence of the mutiny at Vellore, was appointed in Lord Amherst's 
place. It was a great triumph for him, being, as it were, an 
admission that he had been unjustly dismissed in the first instance. 
His administration, however, did much to justify his early treat- 
ment, for there can be no question that he showed an almost 
phenomenal want of tact. Indeed, but for the fact that the final 


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The Extinction of Monopoly 333 

extinction of the monopoly of trade did not take place until 1835, 
this chapter would end on the assumption of office by Sir William 
Bentinck in 1828, since there can be no doubt that many of his 
well-meaning efforts should be included amongst the causes which 
led up to the mutiny of 1857. The best plan, therefore, will be to 
catalogue them briefly here, and discuss them in connection with 
others of a like nature after 1835. The first, which brought him 
great disfavour with the military, was not, strictly speaking, his 
action, but that of England. His only responsibility for what is 
called the hdM-batta (extra allowance) order is that he did not, as 
Lord Hastings and Lord Amherst had done, refuse to obey his 
superiors. It was a silly retrenchment, since for the sake of a 
paltry ^20,000 a year it gave umbrage to a very deserving body of 
men, who could ill afford to lose the money. The scheme was 
condemned by all competent judges in India as "unwise and 
inexpedient, fraught with mischief, and unproductive of good." 

But Lord William Bentinck had come out bound hand and foot 
to economy, social reform, and missionary effort, so he spent his 
years in adding up and subtracting, in framing laws, such as that 
against suttee, and the forfeiture which, under Hindu law, followed 
on conversion to a different faith. 

For political work he had but one catchword ; the catchword of 
his employers— non-interference. The puppet - emperor at Delhi 
complained bitterly ; his complaint being unheard, he actually 
sent an agent — no less a person than Ram-Mohun-Rao, the founder 
of the Brahma-Somajh, the modern Theistical sect of India — to 
plead his cause in England. But he also was unheard. His 
mission had been kept secret, and so his credentials were "out 
of order." 

In Oude, Nasir-ud-din, realising this policy of non-interference, 
began a series of petty aggressions against Aga-Mtr, the finance 
minister, whom the British Government supported. These ended 
unsatisfactorily for all parties by the minister being conveyed 
out of the reach of Nasir-ud-din's vindictive hatred. The Naw&b 
then refused to appoint any one in Aga-Mir's place, and, being 
totally unfit, by reason of his dissolute habits, to manage the 
state himself, everything fell into confusion. Finally, driven, for 
once, out of non-interference by the effect of it, Lord William 
Bentinck not only refused friendly intercourse if a responsible 
minister were not appointed, but told the drunken, disreputable 


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334 The Modern Age 

occupier of the throne himself in so many words, that if he 
did not mend his ways he would be deposed. 

So far well ; but when, appalled by this prospect, Nasir-ud-din 
besought advice how to govern, this was refused. The policy of 
which the Governor-General was the mouthpiece would not allow 
him to interfere ! 

Humanity is at times hard to understand ; in this instance 
peculiarly so, unless, as was stated at the time by the respectable 
courtiers — and even in that sink of iniquity, Lucknow, there were 
some just men— the real object of the English was not to improve 
government, but to find an excuse for usurping it. 

But in Jeypore, in Jodhpore, in Bundi, in Kotah, and many 
another minor state, to say nothing of larger ones, the almost 
slavish adherence of Lord William Bentinck to the order he 
had received brought strained relations. And yet all the while 
he was attempting purely diplomatic r&pprochements with out- 
lying states. The Russian scarecrow had begun to trouble the 
slumbers of Indian statesmen, and this curious creature, destined 
to remain a nightmare for generations, led to interest in the 
affairs of Kabul. In Lord Minto's time Mr Mountstuart Elphin- 
stone had, with great difficulty, met the then Ameer Shah-Sujah 
at Peshawar, and arranged the terms of a treaty with him, but 
ere this could be ratified Shah-Sujah himself had been turned 
out of his throne. He had pleaded for help to recover it ; but 
Lord Minto being one of the non-interference faction, aid had 
been refused. The Ameer had, however, been allowed a pension, 
on which he had lived in Ludhiana, a Sikh town on the Sutlej 

Here Lord William Bentinck found him in 1832, when he had 
an interview with Runjeet-Singh, the Sikh king of the Punjab. 

There can be little doubt that the question of aiding Shah-Sujah 
to recover his throne was mooted by Runjeet-Singh, and was 
negatived by the Governor- General ; there is also little doubt, 
however, that too much cold water was not thrown over the 
scheme, since Dost- Mahomed, the Kabul usurper, was suspicioned 
with Russian proclivities and was being watched. 

But these are minor points compared to the changes which were 
coming over the East India Company at home. Its charter 
expired in 1834, and the question as to whether that charter 
should be renewed had to be answered. It was answered in 
the negative, and on the 22nd April 1834 India ceased to be 


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The Extinction of Monopoly 335 

a land of restrictions. It was thrown open to the wide world. 
During the course of the twenty years which had passed since 
the semi-extinction of the Company's power, but 1,324 licences 
to go to India had been issued. What proportion of these had 
been issued to those whose object was "the introduction of 
religious and moral improvements" is unknown, but in 1833 
mission work had begun almost all over India ; indeed, the con- 
cluding years of the period between 1813 and 1833 were marked by 
greatly increased efforts and results in proselytising the natives. 
One cause of this being the shortening of the ocean passage to 
India by the adoption of the Red Sea route. On the 20th March 
1830 the Hugh Lindsay \ a small steamer, left Bombay harbour, 
arriving in Suez in thirty-two days, and on her next voyage 
reduced the time to twenty-two. Thus, before the year 1836, 
despatches from London arrived in Bombay in two instead of 
six months ; the time taken now is twelve days. 

It may seem extravagant to say that the lessening of sea-sickness 
brought about the Indian Mutiny, but taken seriously, it is true. 
That is to say, the sudden letting loose on a country which had 
hitherto been reserved to especially licensed persons, of all and 
sundry, the dregs as well as the cream of the West, together with 
the removal of the great personal discomfort and expense of a 
six months 1 journey round the Cape, which had hitherto militated 
against travel in India, combined to produce such a change in that 
country as was bound to create alarm, distrust, and resentment, 
amongst the most Conservative people in the world. 


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A.D. 1834 TO A.D. 1850 

What was the cause which led England to refuse a continuance of 
its charter to the East India Company ? 

It was the price of tea. Before this, all considerations as to 
whether the Company had done its duty to India or not vanish 
into thin air. As Mr Mill the historian says succinctly : " The 
administration of the Government of India by the East India 
Company was too exclusively a matter of interest to India to excite 
much attention in England." But with tea it was different. That 
was a question for every Englishman's breakfast table. Hitherto 
China had been debarred from free trade, and the price of tea was 
high ; therefore monopoly was a bad thing for the consumer of 
tea. Q.E.D. 

So on the 22nd April 1834, India was thrown open to the world, 
and though " John-Company " still ruled its destiny, it did so on 
a different footing. For the rest, the story of the dispute concern- 
ing territorial and commercial assets, the haggling over bargains 
between the Court of Directors and Parliament, is not edifying, as 
may be judged by the fact that the latter suggested the abolition of 
the salt-monopoly, not from the slightest consideration for the taxed 
native of India, but from a desire to secure a new market for 
Cheshire ! 

One of the first results of the new arrangement was an unseemly 
struggle over the filling up of the Governor- Generalship made 
vacant by Lord William Bentinck's retirement from ill -health. 
That the appointment should have been bestowed on Sir Charles 
Metcalfe is certain ; he had served India well in many capacities. 
But parties objected. Then Mr Mountstuart Elphinstone came 
into the running, also Sir Henry Fane, Lord Heylesbury, Lord 
Glenelg, until at last a perfectly colourless appointment was made 



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Freedom and Frontiers 337 

in the person of Lord Auckland, a most amiable and estimable 
nobleman, with no experience of India. He arrived in Calcutta 
in 1836, the interregnum, during which Sir Charles Metcalfe had 
carried on the work, having lasted for over a year. He immedi- 
ately started on judicial reform with the aid of a law commission, 
of which Mr, afterwards Lord Macaulay, was president. It was he 
who drafted the Indian Penal-Code, which, founded on common- 
sense and the old Roman Law, remains to this day practically un- 
altered, a standing challenge of concise clearness to the confused 
medley of old precedent and new practice which so often does 
duty for equity in England. While this work was in progress un- 
expected trouble in Oude occurred. Naw&b N4sir-ud-din-Hyder 
died suddenly, leaving no children. It may be remarked that the 
constant occurrence of heirlessness amongst the reigning families 
of India at this time tells its tale all too clearly. There were two 
boys favoured by the Queen-mother, whom the Nawib had once 
acknowledged, but had since formally disavowed. He himself had 
no brothers, and the succession therefore reverted to the heirs-male 
of Sa'adut-Ali, his grandfather. Under British law the next-of-kin 
would have been the children of an elder son ; under Mahomedan 
law it was the younger but still living son. Of this there can be no 
possible doubt. Looking back on Indian history, though, as a rule, 
the failure of direct heirs-male brought about a general free fight 
over the succession, a younger uncle has always claimed above a 
cousin. Thus in Oude there were instantly three claimants in the 
field. The Queen-mother's boy Mura-J&n, the younger uncle 
Nasir-ud-daula, and Yamin-ud-daula, who claimed to be son of an 
elder uncle, and was therefore a first cousin. 

Naturally, the British supported N4sir-ud-daula. Legally, he 
was the heir, though after a time another first-cousin-pretender, 
asserting that he and he only was the rightful Naw&b, actually 
travelled to England in order to urge his title. Meanwhile, on 
the Naw&b's sudden death, old N&sir-ud-daula, the English 
nominee, had been dragged out of bed, promptly conveyed to 
the palace, and left to take an hour or two's sleep before the 
fatiguing ceremony of being installed on the cushion of State. 

This was the Queen-mother's opportunity. She nipped in from 
her palace at Dilkusha with half the loose riffraff of the town (which 
in Lucknow floats about aimlessly awaiting such an opportunity), 
seized on the person of old N&sir-ud-daula — it is a wonder they 
did not murder him — and promptly enthroned Mura-Jin, who 


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338 The Modern Age 

occupied it for about one hour and forty-five minutes. Then the 
British troops having returned and cleared a way with a few 
charges of grape, the coronation of the poor, miserable, by this 
time nerve-collapsed old uncle went on in due course ! 

Small wonder that he signed every obligation which he was 
asked to sign. This does not, however, in any way exonerate those 
who, taking undoubted advantage of the position, made him sign 
an unconditional engagement of submissiveness. 

Still, signed it was ; and for a very distinct and palpable " good 
consideration." Therefore its legality is beyond question. 

The year 1836, however, brought up another political question 
for decision. The Rajah of Satt&rah, quite a small princeling, had 
given trouble ever since the English had most unwisely rescued 
him from poverty and imprisonment and placed him in power. 
His proceedings, eventually, became so outrageous, that the 
Government deposed him, and elevated his brother to the vacant 

This is mentioned because the incident is made use of as 
evidence for the " annexation at any price policy " of the English. 
In this case, at any rate, they did not err. 

But now, over the horizon of a fairly peaceful India, its statesmen 
saw, looming in the distance, the shadow of Russia, and all thought, 
all energies, turned to the north-west frontier. Between it and the 
territory already swayed by Calcutta lay the Sikh nation and 
the five fruitful Doabas of the Punjab. Of these England knew 
little, save what she had learnt from Megasthenes the Greek, and 
Arrian's Anabasis. 

One or two courteous interviews had passed with Runjeet-Singh, 
the Sikh king, but that was all. It was sufficient, however, to show 
him able, a man not to be easily swayed. His life-history confirms 
this. Left king at the age of twelve, with a profligate mother who 
for years had carried on an intrigue with the chief Minister-of-State, 
and an exceedingly ambitious mother-in-law, he managed to rid 
himself speedily of their influence, and ere long take his position 
as monarch of a far larger kingdom than he had inherited. His 
conquests eastwards were, indeed, only checked by meeting with 
British - protected states, and he kept an eye steadily on both 
K&bul and Kashmir. The former he hoped to gain by using Sh&h- 
Sujah, the deposed Ameer, as a stalking-horse ; and as a bribe for 
help promised, but never given, he succeeded in extorting from 
the latter the celebrated Koh-i-nur diamond. The latter, and 


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Freedom and Frontiers 339 

Peshawar, he wrested from the Afghans, with the aid of two 
French officers who opportunely arrived on the scene. So much 
for the Punjab. Below it, still on the western border, lay Scinde, 
an independent state. Beyond it, Persia, with which England 
already had relations. But what of Afghanistan? There Mr 
Elphinstone's attempt to establish connection had ended with 
Shah-Sujah's flight. 

It was determined, therefore, to attempt an embassy to Dost- 
Mahomed, his usurping successor, and Sir Alexander Burnes was 
chosen as the delegate. 

He was a man who had travelled all over Central Asia, who 
was in every way qualified for his task. Unfortunately, or for- 
tunately, he was too well qualified for carrying out the simple 
commercial instructions with which the English Government had 
tentatively, perhaps timidly, entrusted him. But the discovery 
of Russian intrigues in full swing at the Kabul court sent commerce 
to the right-about. Burnes was in the thick of diplomacy without 
delay, and ere long formal questioning and reply was going on 
between Russian and English ambassadors regarding the former's 
influence on the Indian borderland, which elicited a categorical 
denial of any ulterior object on the part of Russia. 

But Dost-Mahomed for all that refused to accede to England's 
somewhat impertinent request, that he should dismiss the Russian 
agent from his court. And so began a quarrel which is barely 
settled to-day. 

Sir Alexander Burnes left Kabul in dudgeon, and almost 
immediately after his departure matters came to a crisis by the 
Persians— avowed allies of Russia— besieging Herat. Now, Herat . y 
was considered by diplomatists and the military alike the key / /\ 
of India, and in 1838, after many pour parlers y manifestoes, and 
embroglios, the combined armies of the tripartite alliance, that 
is to say, the British, the Sikhs, and Sh&h-Sujah, marched on 
the Punjab to reinstate the latter on his long-vacated throne in 
Kibul. In all the long history of India no more unwarrantable 
invasion was ever undertaken, though half a hundred good reasons 
were given for it at the time, and could be found for its defence 
even now by those who fail to see that Dost-Mahomed was, as 
Eastern potentates go, quite a decent ruler. There is but one 
possible excuse. England chose her career deliberately, thinking 
not at all of Afghanistan, but of Russia. 
(\ After a halt at Ferdzepore, where the allies assembled and where 


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340 The Modern Age 

festivities were held, Runjeet-Singh, an old man now, blind of 
one eye, desperately marked with smallpox, and inconceivably ugly, 
tripped over a carpet, to the horror of his court (who considered 
it an evil omen), and fell flat on his nose at the feet of a big 
English gun he was examining ; and where, also, Henry Havelock, 
one of the new school of the Church- Militant, exclaimed in horror 
at "the ladies of a British Governor-General 'watching* choral 
and dancing prostitutes" (surely a somewhat over high-toned 
description of that deadliest of dull and decorous entertainments, 
an Indian nautch). After all this a fairly-triumphant march was 
made through Scinde (where the Ameer of that country, after a 
distinct promise that no riverside forts should be touched, was 
fairly diddled out of' the one at Bukkhur, on the shameless plea 
that it stood on an island), through Quetta to Kandahar and Ghuzni 
(which made a good resistance); so to Kabul, which was entered 
on the 7th August 1839, when Shah-Sujah ran about the passages 
of the Bala-Hissar palace like a child, clapping his hands with 
delight at finding himself back again after thirty years' absence. 

So far good. But, meanwhile, Runjeet-Singh had died, and our 
rear was endangered by the almost open enmity of his successor. 
Thus a limited garrison, only, had to be left in Kabul ; and in 
addition, Dost - Mahomed's first flight had proved to be but a 
prelude to desperate resistance. Still, armed occupation was 
held of the town of Kabul, cantonments were built for the British 
regiments and sepoys which formed the garrison, in which the 
troops passed the winter and summer of 1841 in comfort. Then 
came disaster. 

What caused the outbreak is a mystery. So far as one can 
judge, it began in private revenge upon Sir Alexander Burnes. 
His house was the first attacked on the 2nd November 1841 by 
a mob thirsting for blood and plunder. He attempted to calm 
them by harangue. He offered large sums for his own and his 
brother's escape, but they were both cut down, every sepoy 
murdered, every man, woman, or child on the premises brutally 

And here follows in petto an anticipation of what occurred some 
fifteen years later, when a like massacre broke out at Meerut in 
1857. A general paralysis seems to have attacked those in 
authority. Here, there, everywhere, in isolated posts, English- 
man and sepoy fought together and fell together bravely ; but at 
headquarters decision disappeared, and Brigadier Shelton finally 


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Freedom and Frontiers 341 

settled, weakly, to hold the cantonments, instead of retiring on the 
fortified and almost impregnable Bala-Hissar, where there was 
a plentiful store of .provision. The mistake was fatal. Within a 
month a treaty had to be signed which was practically uncondi- 
tional surrender. Dost - Mahomed was to be reinstated ; Shah- 
Sujah allowed to follow his friends back to India. "The terms 
secured, ,, writes Sir William McNaghten, u were the best obtain- 
able." At any rate, at the time, it was hoped that they would save 
the lives of some fifteen thousand human beings. But fate was 
against it. Sir William McNaghten, failing in a side - intrigue 
which, even had it succeeded, would have beeri barely possible 
with honour, was foully murdered, and on the 6th of January 
about four thousand five hundred fighting-men and twelve thousand 
camp followers, men, women, and children, were driven out into 
the inclement winter cold to find their way, as best they could, 
over peak and pass back to Hindustan. 

The horrors of that terrible march will scarcely bear telling. 
Over three thousand found freedom at once by being massacred, 
wantonly massacred by mountain tribes in the first pass ; the rest, 
without food, without fuel, without tents, pressed on, fighting 
fiercely as they forced their way eastwards. 

It was on the 13th of January that the English garrison at 
Jellalabad, looking out up the Khyber Pass, saw one man swaying 
in his saddle, scarce able to keep his seat, urging his jaded, 
outworn pony eastward, still eastward ! 

It was Dr Bryden. the only man who came through. But he 
brought the w^WSme news that some women and children, and 
a few men, were prisoners, and so far safe. 

Naturally, there was no more question now as to the rights or 
wrongs of war. These captives had to be rescued, and punish- 
ment meted out to many murderers. Both objects were accom- 
plished within the year, but not by Lord Auckland ; for Lord 
Ellenborough succeeded him at the time of the Khyber disaster, 
when matters were at their worst. There was some difficulty in 
finding a candidate for the throne. Shah-Sujah himself had in 
the interval been shot through the head, and his son, whom the 
mob of Kabul had first set up as a puppet-king and then imprisoned, 
had no stomach for further sovereignty. A younger member of 
the family was, however, eventually found willing to face assassina- 
tion for the sake of a doubtful crown. 

His kingship, which only lasted till the British forces were with- 


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342 The Modern Age 

drawn, at least secured the preservation of the Bila-Hissar, which 
otherwise, as a punishment to Kibul, would have been razed to 
the ground ; as it was, the Great Bazaar, a building entirely devoted 
to commerce, was destroyed instead, possibly because Sir William 
McNaghten's body had been exposed upon it. 
% Thus, in(i8i4^he first Afgh&n war came to an end with the absurd 
incident of the Gates of Somn&th. These were supposed to be still 
hung at the entrance of Mahomed-the-Despoiler's tomb at Ghuzni. 
So, with an odd mixture of sham Orientalism and latter - day 
romanticism, they were taken down, carried back to India to form 
the subject of a most marvellous effusion addressed to the chiefs 
and peoples of India, which goes by the name of " Ellenborough's 
Song of Triumph," in which these gates, " so long the memorial of 
your national humiliation," are said to have " become the proudest 
record of your national glory ! " 

And after all, they were not the Gates of Somnith ! 

Almost immediately after this the relations with Scinde became 
strained. The Ameer had, in truth, just cause of complaint in a 
breach of treaty regarding the passage of troops across the Indus, 
and after much discussion the sword became the only possible 
arbiter. So Sir Charles Napier commenced the war which, con- 
ducted by consummate skill throughout, ended virtually with the 
victory of Miani and the annexation of Scinde. 

It was towards the end of the next little war, this time with 
Scindiah, that Lord Ellenborough was recalled, and Sir Henry 
Hardinge, being sent to govern in his stead, found himself instantly 
plunged in a war of far greater magnitude with the Sikhs, with 
whom, after the death of old Runjeet-Singh, friendly relations had 
ceased. In truth, the kingdom was in a state of tumult. The 
army, which consisted of almost the whole nation (since every 
Sikh is by birth and faith a fighter), realising that the whole power 
was virtually in its hands, clamoured for new conquests. Dhuleep- 
Singh, the heir, was a minor ; his mother, nominally guardian, 
had no influence, and finally, forced by circumstances, gave her 
consent to an invasion of British territory. It was unprovoked, 
and yet not altogether unwelcome assault, and it met with instant 
and overpowering reply. On the 13th December 1845 the Sikh 
army crossed the Sutlej in force, and on the very same day- a 
British proclamation was issued, formally declaring that all posses- 
sions of Maharajah Dhuleep- Singh, on the British bank of the 
river, were annexed. Swift battle followed. At Moodki on the 


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Freedom and Frontiers 343 

1 8th December, on the 22nd at Ferozeshah, on the 20th January 
at Aliwal ; finally, the 10th February saw the last stand made at 
Sobraon, a village which stood then on the eastern bank of the 
sliding river. It stands now on the western, for the Sutlej has 

Swift, and short, and sure, was the campaign, curiously enough 
leaving little of rancour behind it amongst the tall, upstanding 
Sikhs. "You were so much better than we were," said an old 
Sikh worthy, who had gone through the four defeats, as he showed 
an infinitesimal slice of his little finger tip ; ''just so much — no 
more ! but you were better led." And the keen old eyes ranged 
cheerfully over the wide wheat plain, intersected by silver-shining 
streaks of sliding river, that had once been the battle-field of 
Sobraon, and the old voice went on exultingly over the tale of 
how he had knelt to receive the British cavalry at Aliwal, and 
knelt on, through three consecutive charges, until he had fallen 
unconscious amongst his dead comrades. 

A treaty of peace was signed at Lah6re twelve days after 
Sobraon, which stipulated for the formal cession of the whole 
Cis-Sutlej country and an indemnity of ^1,500,000, ^500,000 of 
which was to be paid immediately, and the remaining ^1,000,000 
to be discharged by the cession of Kashmir and Hazara. 

This practically ended Lord Hardinge's Governor-Generalship, 
and late in 1847 Lord Dalhousie took up the office. 

The whole of the next year was taken up with a war in Scinde 
which spread to the northern half of the Punjab beyond Lah6re, 
which — despite the cession of Hazara — still remained practically 
unsubdued. After the taking of Multan and the defeat of Mulraj's 
troops, Lord Gough marched northwards against Shere - Singh, 
defeated him at Ramnuggar, fought an indecisive battle against 
him at Chillianwala, and finally, on the 21st February 1849, at 
Gujerat, completely annihilated the Sikh army, taking all their 

Resistance was thus at an end, and the Punjab as far as 
Peshawar was coloured red in the map of India. 

The proclamation of the Governor-General in announcing the 
fact is worthy of quotation as a finish to the long history of 
English dealings with Hindustan. 

"The Government of India formerly declared that it decreed 
no further conquest, and it proved by its acts the sincerity of its 


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344 The Modern Age 

profession. The Government of India has no desire for conquest 
now ; but it is bound in its duty to provide fully for its own security 
and to guard the interests of those committed to its charge. To 
that end, and as the only sure mode of protecting the state from 
the perpetual recurrence of unprovoked and wasting wars, the 
Governor- General is compelled to resolve upon the entire subjection 
of a people whom their own Government has long been unable 
to control, and whom (as events have now shown) no punishment 
can deter from violence, no act of friendship can conciliate to 

The question arises, how much of this admirable effusion is 
strictly true ? In the case of the Punjab there can be no doubt 
that the Sikhs began the struggle by wanton and unprovoked 
assault. But was this always so? Certainly not always. Yet 
once begun, there was no possibility of turning back in England's 
career of annexation. She had put her hand to the plough, she 
was driving a Western furrow over the uncultivated wilds of the 
East, and as she sowed and scattered seed, the necessity for 
protecting the crop— scanty though it was at first — arose immediate 
and insistent. 

People say England has brought poverty to India. Perhaps 
she has. Poverty is the handmaid of so-called civilisation. But 
she has also brought peace — and population ! 


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A.D. I8SO TO A.D. 1857 

Beyond the second Burmese war and the annexation of Oude 
there is little to be recorded in this short period of seven years. 
The former passed on, as did every war, to annexation ; yet once 
again there seems little doubt that this was brought about by 
obstinate refusal to keep the treaty which ensured "the utmost 
protection and security " to British ships trading to Burmese ports. 

The question of the annexation of Oude, however, falls into 
another category, and is so often cited as one of the chief causes 
of the Great Mutiny of 1857, that it is best discussed among the 
many other reasons for resentment and rebellion which undoubtedly 
existed in India at this time. One of these was the change of 
manners in the ruling white-faced race. 

In the old days of a good year's voyaging and sea-sickness 
round the Cape few women had been found to face it ; and so 
the Englishmen in India had formed irregular connections with 
native women, often of very good birth. These connections, 
though, of course, contrary to our marriage laws, were not exactly 
immoral ; they were, indeed, often as regular as the differing codes 
of Christianity, Hinduism, and Mahomedanism would allow. And, 
naturally, they greatly bridged over the gulf between the rulers 
and the ruled. 

The short sea-passage changed all this. English ladies came 
out in crowds, and seeing themselves surrounded by native sister- 
subjects who thought differently to what they did on almost every 
conceivable social subject, held up holy hands of horror at every- 
thing they saw, oblivious, apparently, of the obvious fact, that if 
the native sister appeared a bogey to them, they also must have 
been a bogey to the native sister. 

She, however, by her very seclusion, was prevented from airing 



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her opinion. Not so the Englishwomen and young girls who 
began to come to live amongst those who were generally called 
the heathen. There is no more charitable and kindly soul than 
the average British matron, and in the days before '57 she was 
beyond measure romantic. This was the time when, escaping 
from the stern rule of papa and mama, who had been ready with 
bread and water for " miss " if she refused an eligible parti, the 
English girl looked on Love with a big L, as something only 
a trifle less divine than the God whom she worshipped. She 
was not, therefore, likely to find anything but militant pity and 
charity for a social system which began by ignoring love as 
synonymous with passion. Thus the Englishwoman was no factor 
for peace in the new order of things. Then the changes inaugurated 
by the inclusion of the "introduction of religious and moral 
improvement " as a licensable trade had borne much fruit. One 
has only to read missionary reports to find out how enormously 
organised effort to convert the people of India had increased 
since 181 3, and still more from 1833. In the year 1840 Dr Duffs 
Christian college at Calcutta numbered over six hundred pupils, 
and in 1845 came the added interest to the cause of Missions 
brought by the great Evangelical movement, not only in the 
Church of England, but throughout all Europe. This wave of 
religiosity left no Christian sect untouched, and part of its result 
was the introduction into India of a race of Church - Militant 
officials, admirable in character, in work, who, despite their faith- 
ful performance of duties to Caesar which demanded absolute 
impartiality, could not divest themselves absolutely of their other 
duty (as they held it) to God ; that is to say, to influence the 
natives for good — in other words, to Christianity. Without attempt- 
ing praise or blame, it is impossible to deny that the example 
of such strong and militant Christians as the Lawrences, as 
Havelock, as half a hundred other well-known names, to say 
nothing of the hundreds of lesser-known ones who in civil stations 
and cantonments were encouraging mission work with all their 
might and main, must inevitably have attracted the attention of 
pandits and moulvies\ whose profession, whose bare living, was 
bound up in so-called heathendom. 

Then, ever since the days of Lord William Bentinck, legislation 
had favoured the new faith. It will be remembered that he was 
mixed up with the mutiny at Vellore — a mutiny, if ever there was 
one, caused by abject fear of enforced conversion. His abolition of 


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Manners, Morals, and Missionaries 347 

suttee, his tinkering with Indian law so as to free Hindu converts 
to Christianity from disabilities in succession (or as it has been 
put, " to free them from the trammels of their former superstitions 
and secure them in the full possession of Christian freedom "), had 
passed muster at the time, but as their effects became palpable, 
their interference in matters of custom and religion was resented. 
The very inauguration of female education was an offence, and as 
the years went on, bringing ever more and more missionary effort, 
and, above all, more support to that effort on the part of the ruling 
race, fear of wholesale conversion sprang up amongst the ignorant 
people, and was carefully fostered by the priests and preachers who 
had all to gain and nothing to lose by revolt. 

And behind all this lay slumbering a great resentment. Say what 
folk would, be the excuse what it might, the fact remained that the 
last hundred years had seen every Indian prince reduced to the 
position of a pensioner, his land annexed. And the years between 
1850 and 1857 produced a large crop of such annexations and 
usurpations. To begin with the petty state of Satt&rah. When 
Pertip - Singh the ruler (given his chiefship by the British who 
hunted him up, prisoned, poverty-stricken) had to be deposed child- 
less, England forebore to annex, and placed a brother on the 
cushion of State ; but when that brother, also childless, adopted 
a son but a few hours before his death, she refused to recognise 
his right to do so in regard to the succession. Such a son was 
legal heir to personal property, but Sattirah, being a dependency, 
could not by Indian law pass by adoption without the permission 
of the lord-paramount, which in this case had not been asked. 
Legally, she was right ; but the sting of annexation rankled. 

Then the case of Kerowli occurred, in which adoption was made 
without permission ; but here the Governor-General's order was 
over-ruled by the Directors, who held that though " Satt&rah had 
been originally a gift and creation of the British Government, 
Kerowli was one of the oldest Rajput states, and merited different 
treatment." Annexation was not, therefore, carried out ; but the 
very considerateness of the decision intensified feeling in the other 

Following this came the Jh&nsi case, involving an area of about 
2,000 square miles. Here', again, no issue — almost no collateral J (Jj 
relationships — was the cause of an unauthorised adoption which, 
because the chiefship was, again, a creation of the English, was v 
held inadmissible. 


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Then, as if these three almost forced annexations, occurring in 
1849, l %5 2 > af *d 1853 respectively, were not enough to damn British 
policy in the eyes of disaffection, yet another case came up for 
settlement in 1853; for on the nth of December died Ragoji- 
B6nsla, the Rajah of Berar. He left neither issue nor collateral 
heir, neither had he attempted to supply their place by adoption ; 
thus the question of the state lapsing to the Crown arose in its 
simplest and clearest form. The decision was, naturally, that by 
the Rajah's "death without any heir whatever \ the possession of 
his territories has reverted to the British Government which gave 
them" ; a decision without any doubt legal. 

Now, ere passing on to the annexation of Oude, which stands on 
a totally different footing, it is as well to notice the drift of what 
may be read between the lines of this long record of principalities 
passing by lack of heirs of the body to the lord-paramount. What 
does it mean ? Doubtless, it points first to degeneracy, to the fading 
away of families which is due to dissolute life. But this life in high 
places was no new thing ; the English had found it rampant when 
they came. Therefore some other reason for the necessity of 
State interference must be found. What was this? 

Plainly, on the very face of things, the answer is to be found. 
It was the order, the law, the freedom from conspiracy, assassina- 
tion, self-aggrandisement, which English protection had ensured. 
In the old times an heirless rajah of past fifty would have been the 
centre of a snatching crowd of nobles, and the strongest would 
have asserted his right, and possibly hurried on the death of the 
dying king, or ever the lord - paramount had time to interfere ; 
and then a payment in gold would have satisfied authority ! So 
degeneracy did not matter ; a new family always took the place 
of the dead one. 

Now there was a hard and fast law which had to be obeyed by 
king and subject alike ; a bitter lesson for any Oriental to learn, 
whose very idea of kingship is its superiority to order. 

The trouble in Oude began — when did it not begin ! 

In 1760 Sujah-ud-daula, its hereditary waztr, well beaten by the 
Company for aggression on Bengal, ceded Allahabad and Korah, 
but was left undisputed master of the rest of his territories. In 
1768, again in consequence of defeat, he was bound over to reduce 
his army. In 1773 he once more bound himself to further depend- 
ence in return for troops. In 1775 Sujah-ud-daula died, and his 
son Asaf-ud-daula, in return for "good consideration," ceded 


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Manners, Morals, and Missionaries 349 

territory as perpetual payment of the said troops, and afterwards, 
by various treaties, promised, in return for the guarantee of the 
possession, protection, and administration of Oude, to govern " in 
such a manner as would be conducive to the prosperity of his 
subjects " ; also, to act on the advice of the British Government. 
Sa'adut-Ali, his successor, ratified^, these treaties, and showed, by 
the mere fact of his amassing treasure to the amount of ;£ 14,000,000 
during his reign of fifteen years, that they were not, at least, 
pecuniarily hard. Gh&zi-ud-din, the next Nawab or wazfr, regained 
a certain independence, not by treaty, but by loaning out his 
father's millions to the Company. The sop of being allowed to 
assert his independence of Delhi and call himself King was thrown 
to him ; but he was no ruler, and the aid of British troops being 
refused him, " except in support of just and legitimate demands," 
he defied the treaty which limited his own army, and kept sixty 
thousand native troops, two-thirds of whom were entirely without 
discipline, living naturally by rapine and robbery. His son Nasir- 
ud-din, hopeless debauchee, continued and increased these evils, 
drawing down on himself the solemn warning of Lord William 
Bentinck in 1829, that deposition must surely follow on such 
misrule. Unfortunately, however, advice how to rule was refused, 
and on Nasir-ud-din's death — of course without issue — advantage 
was taken of the accession of the old man — almost in his dotage — 
Nasir-ud-daula, to obtain a fresh and still more stringent treaty, 
by which, if misrule continued, the British Government reserved 
the ' right to administer ■, rendering account to the Naw&bf and so 
far as possible maintaining existing forms so as to K facillitate the 
future restoration of power to its rightful owner? In other words 
the Nawab was, if contumacious, to be put under trustees for the 
time. This was in 1837. At Nasir-ud-daula's death in 1842 his 
son succeeded, and in 1847 another son rose to the throne by his 
brother's death— of course without issue. Now Wajid-Ali-Shah, 
the last Nawab or King of Oude, was utterly worthless. One has 
but to read the journal of the Resident, General Sleeman, to 
recognise how hopeless was the problem of peace, prosperity, 
or progress, under his rule. Surrounded by fiddlers, prostitutes, 
poetasters, eunuchs, he wasted half the revenues on these creatures, 
by whom he was led about, a silly imbecile, with drugged brain and 
diseased body. 

"There is not, I believe," writes General Sleeman— a man of 

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350 The Modern Age 

infinite knowledge of the native, infinite sympathy with them — 
"another Government in India so entirely opposed to the best 
interests and most earnest wishes of the people as that of Oude 
now is. People of all classes have become utterly weary of it." 

No better case for deposition, for the removing of a whole 
people from the grip of fatuous immorality and crass misrule, 
could be found than this ; but the means chosen to effect the 
desirable consummation were mean in the extreme. There were 
two definite treaties regarding the government of Oude. The one 
signed in 1837, gave as the punishment for misrule, the placing 
of the administration under trustees only. That signed in 1801 
gave a guarantee of British protection in return for the cession of 
certain territories, provided the administration of Oude coincided 
with the advice of the Company. In this case, therefore, the only 
penalty was palpably the withdrawal of protection. 

Neither of these penalties satisfied the desire for a total change 
of policy. Instead of saying this openly, instead of boldly running 
up the flag of England, and saying: "This passes! It can no 
longer be permitted, that, under the protection of England such 
vice, such fraud, such extortion, such downright devilry, should 
exist. This crazy, imbecile, lecherous, drunken scoundrel shall 
take his pension and cease to be a tyrant." Instead of ail this, 
with at least some backbone of righteous indignation to carry it 
through, Lord Dalhousie the Governor-General and his advisers 
informed the Nawab that the treaty of 1837 had never been ratified 
in England, but that by some mistake the fact had never been 
notified to him ! And this after Lord Hardinge in 1847 had 
threatened the Nawab with the penalty laid down in that treaty, 
and no other ! 

It is almost incredible ! But there is more to tell. By thus 
setting the treaty of 1837 aside, that of 1801 remained, under 
which the English had no power to do more than withdraw their 
protection from Oude. Thus annexation stood less justified than 
ever, except on the plain ground of the greatest good of the 
greatest number. 

Oude was annexed in 1856. It was the recruiting-ground of a 
large portion of our native armies, and there is no doubt whatever 
that we have here the great political cause of disloyalty. In the 
previous two or three years, also, many measures had been passed 
to rouse religious resentment and suspicion, such as the Hindu 
widows re-marriage Act, and the Act to remove all forfeiture of 


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Manners, Morals, and Missionaries 351 

property due to a change of religion. Nor were these things, as 
of old, too remote to touch on the common lives of the people. 
In Lord Dalhousie's term of office alone 4,000 miles of electric 
telegraph wires had spread a network over India, railways were 
every day eating into the heart of the land, a road, metalled, 
duly laid out for posting, stretched 2,000 miles from Culcutta to 
Peshawar, schools were starting up in the rural districts, and 
letters— stamped letters — carrying God knows what of lies born 
of fear or fraud, were being delivered for a trifle to almost every 
town and hamlet in India. 

A mighty change this, bringing with it at every point the defiling 
touch of the Feringhi. 

Nor was this all. Government was changing. It might be for 
the better — at any rate, it could not be for the worse — but still it 
was strange. The man to whom the revenue would in future be 
paid would have a white face, and that in itself was disturbing. 

Yes ! without doubt, the West was encroaching fast. 

Oude, it has been said, was the great recruiting-ground of our 
native cavalry, but also for our table attendants. The first went 
home to hear tales of annexation, of order which gave the brother- 
hood-of-arms that had remained at home no chance of plunder 
as in the past. The latter took home with them on their holidays 
long tales of the mem-sahibas, and the sahibs' command that all 
servants should attend family prayers ; and of the bakshish of 
kindness to be gained by professing interest' in the new faith. 

So, fostered by professional agitators, by disappointed claimants 
— even as the present unrest is fostered in India nowadays — the 
indefinite fear of something grew in the years between 'fifty and 


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A.D. 1857 TO A.D. 1859 

Heaven knows there were not wanting signs and portents in 
India before "'fifty-seven " which might have put statesmen on 
their guard — had they known of them. 

But the terrible fact is that they did not know of them. Why ? 
Because those whose duty it was to keep their fingers on the pulse 
of the body corporate, whose duty it was to note every passing 
symptom of the new organism of whose life so much remained 
to be learnt, did not, as a rule, know enough of the language of 
India ; the language by which alone they could gather informa- 
tion at first hand. 

Reading the records of these fateful two years, plodding through 
question and answer in many a weary enquiry or trial in which 
long pages of evidence are given by officers who required an 
interpreter in dealing with the men under them, the connection 
comes home startlingly, that the greatest cause of the Indian 
Mutiny was the ignorance of Englishmen. And this much is 
certain ; that in every case where incipient rebellion was quelled, 
where officers seemed to have had some hold over their sub- 
ordinates, the influence came through "knowledge of the 

Yet so great was the ignorance of England, that even General 
Hearsay, a man noted for his tolerant friendliness with his sepoys, 
could write on the nth February 1857 : "We have at Barrackpore 
been dwelling on a mine ready for explosion. ,, 

Still some there were who saw, who feared and even gave 
expression to their fears, like Sir Charles Metcalfe. 

"I expect to wake some fine day and find India lost to the 
English Crown." 

Fateful words, which might have come true but for the national 



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The Great Mutiny 353 

characteristic of Englishmen : their readiness to die in order to 
retrieve the mistakes they have lived to make. 

What, then, were those signs. There were many. Chief 
amongst them the steady distribution northwards and westwards 
of the hearth-baked cake which passed from the hands of one 
village watchman to the other, with the mysterious message? 
" For the elders ; from the south to the north, from the east to 
the west." What did it mean? Heaven knows. Most likely it 
was merely an attempt to arouse in the calm, steadfast lives of 
the peasants in their fields, something of the unrest which was 
being felt wherever native life impinged upon the life of the new 
master. It failed, of course. Throughout the whole Mutiny, the 
India of the wide wheat-fields, the flooded rice-patches, the sugar- 
cane brakes, the tall millet-stretches, and the snow-tufted cotton 
bushes, dreamt on peacefully. 

Then there was the general grievance, started craftily in 
Calcutta and carried throughout every native regiment in India, 
of the grease-defiled cartridges. Was the tale true or untrue ? In 
the beginning, at Dum-Dum, there may have been a possibility 
of suet smearing. Afterwards there was none. But that mattered 
little. Agitators, professional agitators, were abroad, and in India 
no lie is too gross to be believed. 

Then the commissariat flour was defiled purposely by bone 
dust — (it may have been of malice prepense, for agitation in 
India sticks at nothing) ; no righteous man could eat of it and 
live. This was a dish prepared for the high-caste Brahmins, and 
Kshatriyas of Oude; and for the Mussulmans a like poisoned pldt 
was made ready by the English shiftings and shufflings over the 
annexation of that country and the deposition of its king. 

Taking this, and a like anger from every decadent court in 
India, the absolute brutality of the Mutiny ceases to be inexplic- 
able. Every scoundrel in India was against us. Doubtless, honest 
dread of wholesale conversion, even a sense of duty, drove many 
fairly honest men to murder ; but the whole Mutiny was, so to 
speak, engineered by lust of power which had passed. 

The 34th Native Infantry began the ball at Barrackpore, about 
100 miles north of Calcutta, and so within reach of the priestly 
power that gathers always round Mai- Kali's famous and bloody 
shrine. Thanks to General Hearsay's prompt action, it was 
quelled. The story of the old man's gallop across the parade- 
ground, revolver in hand, accompanied by his protesting son as 


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354 The Modern Age 

aide-de-camp, is well worth telling, but there is no time for it here. 
Then fires began to break out in cantonments all over India, show- 
ing a state of unrest, which made old General Hearsay give the 
warning so early as the 18th of April, that " the Hindoos, generally, 
are not at present trustworthy servants of the State." 

By the 2nd of May his words were found true in Lucknow, where 
a regiment of irregular cavalry — part of the late Naw&b's maraud- 
ing army — mutinied openly over the greased cartridge question — 
which had now so openly become a pretence — and was disarmed 
by Sir Henry Lawrence's prompt action. But India had not an 
indefinite supply of heroes and hard-headed old campaigners 
ready and able to cope with danger, and the ioth May at Meerut 
found hopeless, helpless weakness. 

In order to abate the growing grievance of the cartridge, orders 
had been issued that they were no longer to be bitten as of old, 
but torn, thus obviating, it was thought, all possible danger of 
caste-defilement. It was a mistaken order, since it gave credence 
to the lie of their being greased at all. Consequently, the 3rd 
regiment of Light Cavalry (Oude - recruited almost to a man) 
refused even to handle them. On the 9th of May, eighty -five 
men, condemned to ten years' penal servitude for mutiny, were, by 
General Hewitt's senseless severity, degraded publicly before the 
whole garrison, and marched off to prison ; he the while watch- 
ing the proceedings complacently from his buggy, for he had 
already been removed from the Pesh&war command on account 
of physical unfitness for duty. 

Ere twenty -four hours had passed, he proved himself also 
mentally unfit to grapple with a great emergency. Meerut was 
in flames, women and children lying murdered, yet His Majesty's 
60th Rifles, the 6th Dragoon Guards, the European Artillery, and 
no small loyal contingent from the native regiments, were cooped 
up, inactive ; not even one man sent to warn Delhi, but 30 miles 
away ! 

How the heart aches as one reads of brave men on their knees 
begging for a squadron ! Only a troop ! For a gun ! for any- 
thing ! wherewith to dash down the broad, white road, and guard 
the way to Delhi — begging, and being refused ! 

All one can say is that, inadvertently, General Hewitt did good 
service to his country, in that his folly precipitated, and made 
premature, an outbreak which, had it gone on to full growth, would 
surely have lost us India for a time. 


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The Great Mutiny 355 

"To Delhi! To Delhi!" That was the one cry of the half- 
dazed mutineers, feeling freedom full in their faces ; unexpected, 
unhoped-for freedom. Yet, even so, the old habit was strong 
on them. They must have a master ; if the new one hid like a 
coward, they must find another. And at Delhi was the repre- 
sentative of the House of Timur, of Akbar, whose memory still 
lingered in the hearts alike of Hindu and Mahomedan. He, the 
man without a State-religion, the man who had held the balance 
true, to whom all religions equal, was master indeed ! Whether 
old Bah&dur-Shah, his degenerate descendant, who since Akbar 
II.'s death had dozed and dreamed away a drugged life full 
of causeful and causeless complaints, was in the plot beforehand, 
or whether it took him by surprise to find himself acclaimed King 
instead of Puppet, is a moot point. All that is to be known of 
this is, that a nine months' trial — a trial, be it remembered, by a 
victorious, autocratic accuser which thus, in a country like India, 
where strength ever goes to the strong, could have its pick of 
witnesses — failed to find evidence of complicity. 

Not that it mattered, save to one poor, dottled old man saved 
thus from the hangman's noose, whether he knew or did not 
know. Events marched with terrible rapidity, murderous certainty, 
whether the palace gave orders for them or whether it watched, 
stupefied, expectant. The Ridge was swept clear of Englishmen, 
women, children, save for the few who sought refuge in the Flag- 
staff Tower, thus deferring for a time their inevitable fate. Dawn 
had brought the first troopers to shoot down the captain of the 
palace guards and savagely to cut to pieces Simon Fraser, the 
Commissioner, who attempted to harangue them, and all day 
long massacre had gone on unabashed ; but even the blood-drunken 
assassins paused and held their breaths when at sunset, with a 
great roar, a shaking of solid earth which by force made the 
bodies of the mutineers shiver, the " Glorious Nine " in the Arsenal 
sent their message of defiance to the skies. Truly, that blowing-up 
of the magazine by the " Nine " — by Willoughby, Forrest, Scully, 
Buckley, and five others — may be likened to the roar of the British 
Lion, as yet half-asleep. 

It was the only note of defiance that was heard at Delhi for 
five long weeks. 

Women and children were murdered ; the Palace, roused from 
its dreamings, took the goods the Gods gave— and small blame 
to it, seeing how coincident had been the dwining of the Moghuls' 


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356 The Modern Age 

power with the widening of English influence ; the mutineers 
looked in each others faces, almost appalled at their own success ; 
yet still the master made no sign. Truly had it been said that 
their rule was but to be one hundred years, and was not this the 
centenary of Plassey, when Sabat-Jung, the " Daring in War," had 
first laid finger on Hindustan? 

If the " Daring in War " had been here now ! That was a 
thought which surely must have been in the minds of many of 
these hereditary soldiers whose fathers may have fought against 
Clive. But there were no such sahibs nowadays ; Suraj-ud-daula — 
on whom be peace ! — had said sooth when he held the English but 
a small nation — scarce ten thousand warriors all told ! 

In good sooth, however, there was some excuse for inaction. 
Of personal courage — take a stronger word and say heroism — there 
was no lack, but of national preparedness, nothing. Mutiny spread 
like mushroom spawn in the dark, and everywhere took authority 
by surprise, so holding back the power which otherwise would have 
been free for giving help where help was needed. Fortunately, 
some places found a man able and willing to take the lead. At 
Benares, two hundred Europeans faced and overpowered two 
thousand sepoys, chiefly owing to the personal vitality of Colonel 
Neill, and at Lucknow Sir Henry Lawrence, after crushing one 
rebellion, was calmly making his preparations for the next, which 
he knew must come ere long. Whether in his sagacious head 
lay the thought that by holding Lucknow at all costs he might 
lessen the pressure of Delhi, and so divert the attention of some 
mutineers from that central point, who can say ? But his action 
undoubtedly saved the whole situation. Had Lucknow — the 
defenders — gone, thus setting free the hordes of rebels investing 
it, the forlorn hope of attackers who clung to the Red Ridge of 
Delhi in almost helpless defiance all the long hot summer could 
not have held their own. 

So when the question is raised as to which heads the list of 
importance in this history of the Mutiny — the Defence of Lucknow 
or tjie Forlorn Hope of Delhi — the only possible answer is, that 
they both form part and parcel of the one desperate effort to retain 
hold of Empire in India. 

The fact that a whole month elapsed ere the blow given at 
Meerut was returned, made the task of the Red Ridge a harder 
one. But for the loyalty of the Punjab the counterblow might 
have been even longer in coming. Sir John Lawrence, however, 


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The Great Mutiny 357 

was at Lah6re, and none of the Lawrences ever failed their country. 
Still, Fate was unkind, and Englishmen— brave, patriotic English- 
men — still more unkind in their lack of comprehension. When 
the blow was finally struck at Budli-keser&i, and the mutineers 
ran pell-mell for Delhi, 6 miles off, they were not followed, though 
the Kashmir and the Mori gates were open wide, though the 
populace were waiting, waiting, watching for the master's return. 
But we condemned Delhi unheard. We held every man in it a 
rebel, and so, as night fell, the open gates were closed once more. 
How many men's life-blood was spilt thereinafter in trying to 
open them as wide again ? God knows. So the army clung to the 
Red Ridge instead, and as the heat grew and the rocks seemed 
to blister and the sunshine to scorch, half of it gave up the 
struggle for a quiet sleep in the shadow of Earth's breast. Even 
the generals died ; but the change of command brought no change 
in action, until, on the 5th of August, a tall, lank, black-bearded 
man rode into camp ahead of the relief column with which he 
had marched from Pesh&war. It was John Nicholson. 

By a curious coincidence, a faint echo of the challenging roar 
which Willoughby and Forrest, Buckley and Scully, had sent 
to the skies just three months before, greeted his entry as the 
powder factory in the rebel camp blew up. But this was no 
challenge ; it was a salute. Within ten days of the arrival of 
the four thousand who had come to relieve the six thousand 
on the Ridge, the battle of Nujufghur had been won. On this 
occasion the troops under Nicholson marched 36 miles through 
a morass, and fought a desperately hard fight in six-and-thirty 
hours. But Nicholson did not spare others, because he did not 
spare himself. Then ensued a wait of nine days, ere the siege- 
train arrived ; a wait that was full of work. The man saw what 
had to be done, and made up his mind to do it, despite all diffi- 
culties placed in his way ; for he was but six-and-thirty, and the 
older officers had not his fire, his dash. 

It was on the 14th of September 1857, at three o'clock in the 
grey dawn, that the assault of Delhi commenced : by noon it was 
taken, but the man who had taken it lay shot through the breast- 
He had attempted the impossible. He had seen his own regiment 
— Jacob's rifles, the 1st Bengal Fusileers — hesitate, and hesitate 
perhaps rightly, seeing that the storming of that lane by the 
Burne bastion had been attempted many times and failed. So 


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358 The Modern Age 

he had given the old call, " Forward, Fusileers ! Officers to the 
front ! " and had led the way. 

The rush did not fail that time. The Burne bastion was taken, 
but the heart and soul of the man who had arisen for this purpose 
had orders for recall. John Nicholson lay dying. 

He lived to see the whole city taken, the English flag floating 
over the Palace. Concerning the charge that drunkenness amongst 
the English army was the cause of the five days' delay in achieving 
this end, much has been written. Field-Marshal Earl Roberts, 
who was on the staff, has given an authoritative denial to this 
charge, by stating that he did not see a single drunken man 
throughout the day of the assault, although in the "discharge 
of his duty, he visited every position held within the walls." 

This sounds satisfactory, were it not for the fact that this 
inspection was immediately followed by a general order for fatigue 
parties to destroy all liquor found in the shops (though some 
of it was urgently needed by the hospital) ; and also for the subse- 
quent despatch which says, three days later, that an attempt 
to take the Lahore gate had failed, "because of the refusal of 
the European soldiers to follow their officers." 

But Delhi was taken, and, practically, the Mutiny was at an 
end. For the sepoys could not live without a master, and the 
master, a trembling, distracted old man, had given himself up 
from his hiding-place in his great ancestor Humayon's tomb, to 
Major Hodson, of Hodson's Horse. Concerning the yielding up 
of, and the subsequent shooting down of, the Delhi princes, much 
again has been written. Whether honourably or treacherously 
given, they richly deserved their fate ; but the validity of the 
excuse that the shooting down was a sudden necessity which arose 
out of the fact that rescue was attempted while Major Hodson 
was conveying them under escort to Delhi, is fatally injured by 
a tiny scrap of evidence, irrefutable absolutely. 

Hodson's favourite orderly, in telling the story in after years, 
invariably gives this detail : " Prince Abul-bakr wore a talisman 
on his arm ; so I said to Hodseyn-Sahib : ' Wait a bit, Huzoor ! to 
kill him with that on will bring ill-luck. I'll take it off ere we 
shoot him.'" 

No hurry there, no stress of circumstances surely, to make the 
immediate use of a revolver necessary ? 

But, once again, Delhi was taken. " If ever India needs a deed 
of daring done, John Nicholson is the man to do it." So had said 


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The Great Mutiny 359 

a comrade-in-arms years before, and now the deed was done. 
Delhi, which had focussed rebellion for four long months, was taken 
by assault. 

And how of defence ? 

Lucknow still held out, despite the death of the man who had 
made defence possible, for Henry Lawrence died from a shell- 
wound on the 4th July ; but he left stout hearts behind him. And 
then, with all justice be it said, the besiegers were but half-hearted. 
They must have been so, else how could a scant garrison of fifteen 
hundred, in a weak position, with scarce a palisade in some places 
between them and the foe, have held their own against close on 
twelve thousand soldiers, backed by the wildest, wickedest, most 
wanton town-rabble in all India ? And the population of Lucknow 
runs into hundreds of thousands. 

Meanwhile, English troops on their way to China had been 
stopped and diverted to India by telegraph ; England, grasping 
the magnitude of the disaster, was sending out regiment after 
regiment, and divisions were being formed up and sent hither and 
thither to quell and to punish. Amongst the commanders of 
these, Henry Havelock stands first, and at the head of a movable 
column, started for Cawnpore in July. Too late to save the 
beleaguered garrison, pent up foolishly in untenable entrench- 
ments ; too late even to save the horrible tragedy of the well at 
Cawnpore, into which, by the wanton wickedness of a courtesan, 
two hundred English women and children were thrown, after 
being foully murdered. 

They did not, however, die in vain ; for from the moment the 
news of the awful massacre reached the English camps there was 
no more hesitation. Not by God, but by the slaughter-house at 
Cawnpore, every man swore that retribution should be bitter and 
deep. How deep, how bitter it was, it is not well to say. Let the 
dead past bury its dead. It was hard for the British soldier to 
believe that the peasants whose villages he entered in his forced 
marches scarcely knew that war was abroad. But so it was. 
Within 20 miles of Delhi itself there are villages which passed 
through the Great Mutiny time knowing no more of it than that 
"the Toorkh"— the bugbear of Indian rustic life— had appeared 
again. That sometimes with a dark face, sometimes with a white 
one, he appeared, plundered the grain-stores, perhaps cut down a 
man or two, mayhap ravished a woman, and then disappeared. 


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360 The Modern Age 

That was all. To the vast, the overwhelming majority of the 
people of India, that was all ! 

But to those who had sworn by the festering, blood-stained well 
at Cawnpore, all life seemed bound up in those two thoughts : 
"Will Delhi fall ere we reach it to help?" "Will Lucknow hold 
out ere we can relieve it?" 

There was so much to be done. All over the country isolated 
resistances were staring death in the face bravely. At Arrah, 
half a dozen civilians held a miserable thatched bungalow for 
days, almost amusing themselves in its defence, strengthening its 
possibilities with mud from the garden, and using their sporting 
rifles with deadly effect on their foes. In another place a 
magistrate used his bulky files to fortify the public office roof, 
writing afterwards to report coolly that for impenetrability he 
could recommend a good criminal case, full of hard swearing. 

All this, and hundreds of other heroisms, filled up the long hot 
summer of '57. The rains fell copiously, the crop was a bumper 
one, the peasants, mercifully, had no time to think, even, of aught 
save its harvesting and husbanding ; there was so much to be 

On the 25th of September, just five days after the final fall of 
Delhi, Havelock and Outram, with a small force, had pushed their 
way through to Lucknow, but, though the garrison was relieved, 
the generals did not feel themselves strong enough to march out 
and face the rebels. So once more, but now heartened up by the 
certainty of success which came to every Englishman in India 
with John Nicholson's daring deed, Lucknow waited for more 

It came with Sir Colin Campbell's force on the 16th of November, 
when, leaving Outram to hold the Alumbagh with three thousand 
five hundred men, the general marched back as he had come, 
triumphantly carrying with him the women, the children, and the 

Thus the Defence had ended, the Attack had succeeded, and 
only Retribution remained. 

By this time the Delhi column, set free from its task, had marched 
southwards for further assault. Agra, Jhansi, Central India gener- 
ally, had to be settled, and settled they were satisfactorily. 

By the nth of May 1858 the Mutiny had disappeared, as the 
mutineers themselves had disappeared on that fateful day in late 
September 1857, when, having retreated — some fifty or sixty 


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The Great Mutiny 361 

thousand strong — from Delhi to the plains about Agra, the dusk 
found them encamped, still coherent, still resolved on struggle, 
and the night glittered with the watch-fires of a vast army. 

But the dawn, coming cloudily, reluctantly, found only the dead 

ashes of a resolve that had passed in the night ; the men who had 

made it had vanished into thin air. They were hurrying back to 

their homes, eager to be found peacefully at work when the master 

• should once more come on his tour of inspection. 

The 2nd of August in that same year a bill for the " Better 
Government of India " passed into law. 

It had eighty-five sections, but its general object was to transfer 
the whole administration of India from the Company to the 

Whether better government has resulted, or not, is a question 
which it is to be hoped the English reader of this mere sketch of 
Indian history may be more qualified to judge than he (or she) 
was before the perusal of these slight pages. 


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Abul-faiz, 178 
Abul-fazl, 179 
Agriculture, 7 
Ajata-sutru, 31 

Akbar, 46, 153, 168, 171, 189 
Ala-ud-din, 92 
Alexander, 3, 27, 35, 42 
Alighur, 322 

Ali-Verdi-KMn, 255, 269 
Allah-ud-din, 114, 115 
Alt&mish, 108 
Anabasis, 35, 42 
Anangpal, 83 
Ancient Age, I, 81 
Andhra, 58 
Antivivisection, 48 
Architects, 105 
Architecture, 67 
Arcot, 248, 264 
Arrian, 38 
Aryan, 2, 6, 21 

gods, 7 

laws, 7 

Asaf-daula, 297, 305 
Asaf-J&h, 277 
As6ka, 43, 46 
Assaye, 321 
Astronomy, 244 
Asva-medha, 54 
Attock, 36 
Auckland, Lord, 337 
Aurungzebe, 209, 220 

Babar, 135 
Bactrians, 51, 57 
B&hmani dynasty, 129 
Baji-rao, 257 
Battlefield, 81 
Be&s, 38 

Begums, 305, 320 
Begum Sumroo, 311 
Benares, 106, 303 
Bentinck, 325 
Bernier's views, 222 
Bhattinda, 82, 96 
Bhim-si, 117 
Bhishma, 13, 14, 15, 18 
Bimbi-sfoa, 31 
Bindu-sira, 45 
Birbal, 182 
Black Hole, 271 
Board of Control, 313, 325 
Bodh-Gya, 64 
Bo tree, 64 
Brahm&na, 1 1 
Brahmans, 29 
Bucephalus, 40 
Buddha, 22, 25 
Buddhism, 46 
Buddhist Councils, 59 

Creed, 24 

Bussy, 279 
Byr&m I., 92 

II., no 

HI., 174 

Campaigns of the Crescent, 81, 

Carnatic, 257 
Censorship, 321 
Ch&ndra-gupta I., 34, 44 

II., 63 

Chaos, 76 

Character of Hindus, 28 
Charter, 336 
Chikandfn, 15 
Child, Sir John, 218 
Chitore, 116, 178 



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Christianity, 195, 213 
Church establishment, 320 
Chytuc, 180 

Clive, 261, 263, 289, 356 
Coins, 50 
Coote, 272, 279 
Cornwallis, Lord, 313 
Cuttack, 45 

Dalhousie, Lord, 343 
Darius, 33 
Dark Ages, 75 
D&syas, 2 

Dekkan, 129, 194, 258 
Delhi, 102, 197 
Deva-datta, 31 
Devastated India, 129 
Dharma Sutra, 27 
Didda, 77 
Doaba, 40, 338 
Drama, 71 
Dr&upadi, 16 
Dupleix, 247 

Eastern knowledge, 224 

East Indian Companies, 194, 202, 

219, 221, 245, 295, 305, 328 
Ellenborough, Lord, 341 
English administration, 227 

army, 226 

encroachments, 217 

grip on India, 227 

laws, 225 

motive, 307 

travellers, 184, 194 

Epic period, 1 1 

Faizi, 178 
Fatehpur Sikri, 179 
Ferghana, 134, 138 
Fenshta, 106 
Fer6ze Toghluk, 121 
First grants, 228 
Fortun&ta, Princess, 98 
Francis, Philip, 295 
French and English, 247, 254 

Companies, 247 

Frontiers, 339, 344 

Gang a, 13 
Ganges, 32 
Geography, 5, 11 

Ghazi-ud-din, 331 
Ghiass-ud-din, 119 
Ghori, 89 

Ghu^nevide dynasty, 89 
Ghuzni, 83 
Godeken, 263 
Gold, 218, 222, 240 
Golden Age, 64, 65 
Gondophares, 52 
Grammarians, 26 
Greased cartridge, 353 
Great Mauryas, 46, 49 

Moghuls, 135, 220 

Greed of gold, 295 
Greek influence, 56 
Gupta Empire, 63 

Hamida, 159 
Hamir, 131 
Hardinge, Lord, 342 
Harsha, 69 
Harsha-charita, 72 
IJastinapur, 13 
Hekataios, 27 
Hemu, 163, 173 
Her^t, 45 

Hiuen T\sang, 64, 74 
Horse sacrifice, 54, 64, 97 
House of Stir, 161 
Hum&yon, 153, 155 
Hydaspes, n 
Hyder-Ali, 290, 293, 302 
Hymns, 2 

Impeachments, 288 
Indian agriculture, 61 

architecture, 67 

geography, 5, n, 165 

knowledge, 224 

literature, 67 

lost river, 6 

morality, 28, 130 

philosophy, 22 

policy, 204 

religions, 18, 21, 39, 46, 47, 


rivers, 5 

secretiveness, 61 

Indo-Bactrian, 52 
Indo-Parthian, 52 
Invasion, Aryan, 1 
, Bactrian, 57 


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Invasion, Greek, 35 

, Huns, 69 

, Mahometan, 80 

, Mongolian, 57 

, Parthian, 50 

, S&kas, 52 

, Yuehchi, 52 

JaMngir, 190-200 
Jainism, 46 
Jaipal, 82 
Jan&ka, 20 
Jesuits, 182, 195 
Jeysulmer, 133 
Jhelum, 37 
Jingi, 259 
Jodhpur, 133 
Joh£r, 108, 125 
Jullunder, 42 

Kabul, 45, 338, 340 
Kafur, 119 
Kalidasa, 71 
Kalingar, 47 
Kandah&r, 45 
Kanishka, 58 
Kaptla, 22 
Kama, 17 
Kaur£vas, 13 
Khilji dynasty, 113 
King's duties, 18, 27 
Kishna Kumari, 329 
Kosala, 31 
Kshatriya, 95 
Kutb-din-Eibuk, 103 
Kutb Min&r, 105 

Labourdonnais, 249 
Lah6re, 83, 90 
Lake, Lord, 323 
Lally, 279 
Lawrence, 252 
Lost river, 6 
Love, 208 

McNaghten, 341 
Madras, 45, 248 
Magadha, 20 
Mah&bharata, 2, 12, 20 
Mahmud Ghuzni, 77, 82 

ambition, 87 

greed, 88 

Mahomed, 78 

, death of, 104 

Ghori, 94, 99 

Toghluk, 120 

, treachery of, ioi 

Mahratta, 210, 230, 239, 321, 355 

Manes, 52 

Mangalore, 48 

Marvellous Millenium, 21 

Maurya, 42, 49 

Megasthenes, 28, 45 

Mercenaries, 256, 295 

Middle Age, 81 

Mihr-un-nissa, 191 

Mlr-jaffar, 273 

Missionaries, 326, 345 

Mobdrik, 163 

Moghul, 120, 122, 322 

Moira, Earl of, 318 

Monism, 26 

Monopoly, 326, 335 

Mornington, Lord, 318 

Mutiny, 237, 324, 352 

NAdir, invasion of, 240 
N&ga, 2 
Nagark6t, 84 
Nanda dynasty, 33 
N&sir-ud-daula, 337 
Msir-ud-din, 111 

, 333 

Nawa-ratanif 67 
Naw&b of Bengal, 268 
New Rajagrtha, 31 
Nine gem necklace, 67 

Nandas, 33 

Niz&m, 290 
Nuncomdr, 296 
NurjaMn, 193 
Nyaya, 25 

Omichand, 274 

Oude, 281, 295, 304, 331, 333, 348 

Oudipur, 133 

Outlying provinces, 50 

Padmani, 116 

Palibothra, 32 

Pandu, 12 

P&niput, 100, 147, 173, 243, 284 

Parthians, 57 

Pataliputra, 28 

Patna, 285 


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Peace of Aix la Chapelle, 284 

Permanent settlement, 298, 316 

Persistency of creed, 29 

Personality, 65 

Pertap, 130 

Pillars of Asdka, 48,63 

Pirates, 225 

Plassey, 273, 277 

Pondicherry, 248 

Portuguese, 165, 227 

Porus, 35 

Prithvi-Raj, 96, 98 

Private trade, 287 

Punjab, 31, 388, 343 

Puranas, 20 

— creed, 70 

Queen Elizabeth, 185 

Rajagr!ha, 31 
Rajputni heroism, 165 
Rajputs, 95 

confederacy, 131 

resistance, 95 

R&m&yana, 11, 19 
R&zia Begum, 109 
Reinhardt, 311 
Religion, 3, 9, 18, 21 
Rig- Veda, 2, 70 
Rock edicts, 48 

Sa'adut-Ali, 318 
Sabaktagtn, 79 
Sai-nair, 97 
Sakas, 52 
Salfm, 179 
Samudra-gupta, 63 
Sanchi, 48 
Sandracottus, 34, 43 
Sankhya, 23, 25 
Sanwat era, 55 
Saraswati, 6, 100 
Scythians, 30 
Seleukos Nikator, 45 
Self-choice, 16 
Serpent kings, 2 
Ses-n%a kings, 30 
Shah&b-ud-din, 93 
Sh&hjaMn, 201, 208 
Sidi Dervish, 115 
Sikhs, 232 
Siva-ji, 211 
Sivalak, 90 


Slave kings, 105, 112 

Smith, 291 

Soma, 7 

Somnath,' 84 

Sonput, 90 

St Thomas, 53 

Successions, 347 

Suniogata, 97 

Suraj-ud-daula, 269, 270 

Susceptibility to personal equation, 

Sutra, 22 
Syyeds, 235 

Taj, 208 
Takshaks, 4 
Takstla, 46 
Tanjore. 256 
Tartar dynasties, 113 
Taxiles, 35 
Teetotalism, 159 
Teignmouth Shore, 317 
Thanes war, 73 
Timur, 124, 128 

, cruelty of, 125 

Tippoo-Sult&n, 303, 315, 319 
Toghluk dynasty, 119 
T6ghlukabad, 121 
Toork, 123, 240, 359 
Trichinopoly, 264, 267 
Trumpet-flower City, 32 

Ujjain, 31 
University, 37 
Upanishads, 11, 22 

Vaisasika, 25 
Vedanta, 23 
Vedas, 5 
Vellore, 324 
Vikramaditya, 55 
Vyan-M£ta, 117 

Warren Hastings, 294, 306 
Watson, 272 
Wazir-Ali, 318 
Wellesley, Marquis of, 318 

, Arthur, 321 

White Huns, 69 
Woman's plea, 100 

Yoga, 25 
Yuehchi, 52 
Yunini system, 42 

Zemindar, 308-316 


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